Cameron Rodriguez was the fourth in a string of five people since February to pocket $20,000 by nailing a half-court shot at an Oklahoma City Thunder home game earlier this month.
But he may have to take himself off the list.
Rodriguez, 23, plays basketball at Southwestern College in Winfield, Kansas. Under the rules of the National Assn. of Intercollegiate Athletics, players cannot use their sports ability or fame for financial reward.
“I didn’t really think about it at first because I was way too excited,” said Rodriguez, who gained notoriety by knocking over the Thunder mascot during his celebration. “After things settled down, I realized we might have an issue because I was receiving a large amount of money.”
Rodriguez and Southwestern are asking the association to consider the money as a scholarship to help pay for his tuition. The 6-foot-6, 210-pound sophomore is on a $4,000 athletic scholarship and says he pays roughly $33,000 per year for tuition, room, board, books and other fees.
Rodriguez would have been ineligible for at least a full academic year if he had kept the money, according to Ed Loeb, a Southwestern math professor and faculty athlete representative.
John Leavens, the executive director of the National Assn. of Intercollegiate Athletics Eligibility Center, said Rodriguez has handled the situation correctly. Rulings on such cases typically take a week or two.
“It would certainly hurt his cause if he had tried to circumvent the rules,” Leavens said. “The fact that he connected with the right officials to make sure that he understood the proper application of the rule is something that we expect, and we’re glad to see.”
MidFirst Bank, which sponsors the half-court shot promotion, has offered to donate the money to charity in Rodriguez's name if he is not allowed to use it as a scholarship.