Half-Court Shot-Maker Can Keep $20,000, Conference Recommends

The Kansas Collegiate Athletic Conference recommended that the college basketball player who hit a half-court shot for $20,000 at an Oklahoma City Thunder game be allowed to use the money toward his tuition.

Cameron Rodriguez, a 23-year-old forward at Southwestern College in Winfield, Kansas, won the pretax total on Nov. 18 after making the shot during a halftime promotion. The school has asked the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics for a rules exemption to allow him to use the money as a scholarship without losing athletic eligibility.

The appeal went first to the conference’s eligibility committee, which recommended that the NAIA approve the request, according to Commissioner Scott Crawford. The final decision rests with the Kansas City, Missouri-based governing body.

“I would be surprised if the NAIA doesn’t rule in that same way,” Crawford said in a telephone interview.

The NAIA student guide says athletes cannot use their athletic ability or fame for financial reward, including prizes from promotions in their sport of focus.

Matt Hanson, director of legislative services at the NAIA, said in an e-mail that he was unable to comment on the conference recommendation because it references an in-process request.

It’s highly unlikely for someone to win money in a half- court shot promotion, the conference’s recommendation said, according to Crawford.

“This case is truly an exceptional situation and is worthy of being granted as an exception to the NAIA bylaw,” he said, reading from the recommendation.

Every Game

A 6-foot-6, 210-pound sophomore from Elk City, Oklahoma, Rodriguez made the shot on Nov. 18 during a promotion that is sponsored every home game by Oklahoma City-based MidFirst Bank. He said he realized shortly after his celebration that accepting the money could be in conflict with his eligibility.

“I feel like any time the conference would step in and take a risk for me, or for any student, that carries some weight on a national level,” Rodriguez said today in a telephone interview. “I could say I feel a little more confident in it, but at the same time I don’t want to get ahead of myself.”

Every one of Southwestern College’s 1,700 students receives financial aid through institutional grants to help with the $23,000 annual tuition, according to Brenda Hicks, the school’s director of financial aid. Rodriguez, who is on a $4,000 athletic scholarship, said he pays roughly $33,000 a year when he adds room, board, books and other fees.

Rodriguez is one of five people to hit the half-court shot at Chesapeake Energy Arena during the 2013 calendar year. MidFirst Bank said last month that it had no plans to stop its six-year sponsorship of the shot. G. Jeffrey Records Jr., the bank’s chief executive, owns a stake in of the Thunder.

The Moundbuilders are 6-1 this season. Rodriguez said he becomes eligible to play later this month after sitting out the fall semester as he made up credits from his previous school, Northern Oklahoma College.

(Editors: Michael Sillup, Jay Beberman)