College basketball player Nathan Harries of Alpharetta, Ga., has lost one year of eligibility after being penalized by the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). His offense? Playing with a church league over the summer before heading off to begin his freshman year at Colgate University in Upstate New York.

Harries played just three times in the Dunwoody Baptist Church league as he was finishing up his two-year mission with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Raleigh, N.C., NBC Sports reported.

Mormon College Nathan Harries Student Gets Major Punishment for Playing in Church Basketball League

Image source: Colgate University/ColgateRaiders.com

NCAA rules stipulate that players who do not immediately enroll in college after graduating high school will be penalized one year for each academic year that they participate in organized basketball.

As a result, Harries, who likely didn’t realize his three-game play would be a problem, risks losing one year of play time with the Colgate Raiders if the NCAA doesn’t reconsider the crack-down.

On the surface, the restriction might seem odd, however the NCAA implemented it to ensure that players don’t purposefully compete in competitive leagues to gain an upper-hand once they reach the collegiate level, Yahoo! Sports blogger Jeff Eisenberg explains.

Harries’ predicament, though, is unique in that the Dunwoody Baptist Church league was more recreational than anything else — at least according to Harries’ dad, Michael.

He told Eisenberg that most of the guys playing were in their 30s and were just participating for the fun of it.

“The NCAA is trying to discourage players from getting an unfair advantage by playing in high-level leagues, but that’s absolutely not the case here,” said Michael Harries.

He added, “This was a typical after-work league in Atlanta, some former high school players and some who haven’t played hardly at all. Nobody’s in the gym except the teams and the referees. It’s organized, but it’s an old man’s league.”

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution says that the NCAA learned about Harries’ play time with the church league when he filled out a questionnaire for the sports authority in July before his freshman year began. Thinking nothing of it, he answered affirmatively when asked if he had played organized sports over the past two years — and that’s what sparked the controversy.

As a result of his church league participation, the NCAA said he was ineligible.

Colgate initially filed for a waiver, which was denied on Oct. 21. That’s when the college decided to appeal the NCAA’s decision. Michael Harries is hopeful that his son’s full four years of eligibility will be restored once the situation is re-assessed.

(H/T: Yahoo! Sports)

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