The Dewan Hernandez saga is finally over, but it is not the ending he or University of Miami basketball fans were hoping for.
The NCAA ruled on Monday that Hernandez, a junior forward, must sit out the rest of this season and 40 percent of next season for “entering into an agreement and accepting benefits from an agent.”
Hernandez later announced that he will withdraw from UM “with a heavy heart” and prepare for the 2019 NBA Draft.
Hernandez had been ruled ineligible and missed all 19 games so far this season because of his connection with aspiring agent Christian Dawkins. He went through a complicated appeal process, and applied to be reinstated, but the NCAA denied his request.
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to the Miami Herald
An NCAA press release said: “According to the facts of the case, which were agreed upon by the university, Hernandez agreed to receive monthly payments from an agent and accepted other benefits from the individual. According to the guidelines adopted by NCAA membership, the starting point for these violations is permanent ineligibility, but the NCAA staff recognized mitigating circumstances based on the specific facts of the case when making its decision.”
Hernandez’s attorney, Jason Setchen, has maintained that no contract was ever signed and Hernandez never received any of the payments Dawkins had proposed in person or in an e-mail.
“I was very surprised by the harshness of the NCAA’s ruling,” Setchen said Monday. “I do not believe they gave enough weight to the mitigating circumstances. It is very unfortunate for Dewan and the University of Miami that the NCAA has reached this decision.”
Hernandez said in a statement: “I was advised of the NCAA’s decision about my eligibility and am very disappointed with the outcome. I do not believe that the NCAA treated me fairly, and it is with a heavy heart that I have decided to withdraw from the University of Miami to prepare for the 2019 NBA Draft.”
He thanked his coaches and the athletic department for their “unwavering support.” He also thanked the fans and his teammates.
“I grew up in Miami and always dreamed for being a Miami Hurricane,” he said. “I take great pride in having been a part of the U. While I am saddened by the NCAA’s decision, I look forward to starting the next chapter of my life and focusing my energy on preparing to compete at the next level.”
UM athletic director Blake James issued a statement critical of the NCAA ruling, calling it “not only disappointing, but unfair.”
He went on: “Based on the totality of the facts, the University is not in agreement with the decisions and interpretations of this case and made it well-known to the NCAA staff that we have many reservations about the reliability of evidence and ultimate conclusions. Dewan was cooperative throughout this process and was transparent about what had occurred, admitting to mistakes he made. I am one of the NCAA’s strongest supporters and I am actively involved in its leadership, but I would be remiss in my obligation to the association, all student-athletes and to the University of Miami if I did not speak up.”
The Hurricanes (9-10, 1-6 ACC) are coming off a Sunday loss to Florida State and play against No. 12 Virginia Tech at home Wednesday night. Miami could have used Hernandez’s help. The team has been reduced to a seven-man rotation.
UM coach Jim Larranaga, who has expressed his frustration with the situation, said Hernandez has handled the suspension with grace and maturity.
“He is so team oriented and cares so much about his teammates that he’s been on the bench at every home game, cheering like crazy,” the coach said. “He’s been at every practice he’s been allowed to attend and working his tail off, hoping for the day when he gets the green light to play college basketball again.”
“He’s made a lot of sacrifices, and he deserves to be back playing,” Larranaga said.