NORMAN — In the first half of the BCS National Championship game, Mike Balogun corralled Florida running back Chris Rainey for a 3-yard loss. It turned out to be just another play in the game. But for Balogun, it’s a play that has become career-altering.
Perhaps eventually career-ending. Court documents obtained by The Oklahoman from Balogun’s lawsuit against the NCAA allege that comments made by the FOX TV announcers immediately after that play ultimately sparked the NCAA’s inquiry into Balogun’s past. "He played a little semi-pro ball, the Prince George Jets, the Maryland Marauders, before he went to Lackawanna,” color commentator Charles Davis pointed out during the telecast. According to court records, the day after watching the title game and hearing Davis’ remarks about Balogun’s semi-pro past, an official from Florida State's compliance office contacted the Big 12 Conference and suggested the league investigate Balogun’s eligibility. Florida State officials were familiar with the rule since they had a player, wide receiver Corey Surrency, whose career was cut short after it was found earlier this year he had played a season of semi-pro football past the age of 21. Now, Balogun is trying to avoid Surrency’s fate. Balogun filed a civil lawsuit Tuesday against the NCAA and was granted a temporary restraining order against the governing body by a Cleveland County Court judge. The lawsuit is in reaction to the NCAA’s investigation about Balogun’s eligibility. The NCAA questions whether Balogun played semi-pro football after his 21st birthday. Per NCAA rules, for every season an athlete plays semi-pro football past his 21st birthday, he loses a season of eligibility. Since Balogun is a senior, losing a season of eligibility would end his college career. "Mike Balogun is a nice, intelligent young man,” said his attorney, Woody Glass, of Norman. "He’s been through so much. We’re hopeful of providing an avenue for him to continue to play at OU. It’s unfortunate he finds himself in this position.” Balogun finds himself in this position due largely to the aftermath of being singled out on national TV during the championship. Big 12 officials followed up on Florida State's tip, but came away satisfied with the information OU’s compliance department provided on Balogun. But Florida State's compliance office apparently wasn’t satisfied. This time, Seminole officials went straight to OU and pointed out they had found a box score on the Internet reflecting Balogun had played semi-pro ball after his 21st birthday. Balogun turned 21 on Sept. 28, 2004. OU officials responded they were aware of the box score, but believed it to be inaccurate. However, OU compliance decided to reopen the issue and interviewed Dennis Felton, an ex-assistant coach for the North American Football League’s Maryland Marauders, Balogun’s former semi-pro team.