MONTGOMERY, Ala. – Free safety Ray Ray Armstrong, who was set to play his senior season at Faulkner University after competing three years at the University of Miami, was declared ineligible Tuesday by the NAIA Eligibility Center, the clearinghouse for NAIA student-athletes.
Armstrong, thought to be one of the top safeties entering next year's NFL draft, arrived at Faulkner in mid-August and began practicing with the Eagles immediately, awaiting word on his eligibility status from the NAIA. A 3.0 student and just one class shy of earning a degree in sports management, the talented defensive back was declared ineligible by Miami in July for a violation of NCAA by-law 10.1, with the compliance office stating that he had been dishonest during an internal investigation. Armstrong had served a multiple-game suspension during the 2011 season for accepting improper benefits during his recruitment to Miami, and after the latest incident the new Hurricanes' coaching staff opted to cut ties with him, and did so without filing an eligibility reinstatement request with the NCAA.
In the NAIA Official Policy Handbook, Article V, Section E, No. 5 states, "Any student who has completed eligibility or who has been permanently banned in a given sport at any four-year institution, either
NAIA-affiliated or other, shall have no eligibility remaining in that sport within the NAIA. Such a student cannot regain eligibility in that sport at an NAIA institution."
Responding to a recent request from Faulkner, the Miami compliance office did seek to have Armstrong's eligibility reinstated by the NCAA but was told by the association it didn't have "standing" with him since he was no longer a student-athlete at the institution. According to the NAIA Eligibility Center, "banned" equates to "ineligible" in the above mentioned by-law and since Armstrong's eligibility was not reinstated by the NCAA he therefore remains ineligible in the eyes of the NAIA.
"We're disappointed in the ruling, obviously," Faulkner athletic director and head football coach Brent Barker said. "We respect the great job the NAIA Eligibility Center does for our student-athletes, but we thought Ray Ray's situation was unique and unprecedented, and deserved a positive ruling. I most of all hate it for him, because he has fit in so well on our campus with our student body and has really been a leader in our locker room with a lot of our younger players. I think he realizes Faulkner is a special place, and I think he'll always have fond memories of this football program."