Homeless player finds shelter, NCAA pulls eligibility

If ever there was a reason the NCAA should scrap its rules on student-athlete eligibility, Baylor football player Silas Nacita is it.

Nacita was homeless. Sports Illustrated said he slept in ditches and hotel lobbies.

Nacita walked on at Baylor in June, homeless and hungry, with a few dollars saved from waiting tables. After workouts, he slept on the apartment floors of friends.

In August, Nacita began classes with a financial-aid package that included money for tuition but none for books. Occasionally, Nacita borrowed a text from a classmate. Sometimes, he snapped pictures of book pages in the student bookstore and studied the images on his phone.

Often, he relied on his smarts. “I had to take a lot of my classes on memory,” he says. Bookless and broke, Nacita made Academic All-Big 12.

In its profile last December, Sports Illustrated said his story was an inspiration.

Not to the NCAA, though.

Bleacher Report reports today that he was suspended from the team for breaking NCAA rules.

He had accepted a place to live, food and financial support.

The school told him the news in February. So he went on a mission trip, cleaning out an abandoned church and working with kids.

“It was a reminder that life isn’t about me,” he said.

On March 25, Nacita sat down in a room with Baylor officials and learned the news that he was anticipating all along: His NCAA ineligibility was final.

“I didn’t shed a tear in the meeting. I wasn’t angry. I shook their hands,” he said. “It was a pleasant conversation. I didn’t go into the meeting expecting good news. I went in expecting confirmation, and that’s what I got. I had a little hope in the back of my heart, but when they told me, it was almost a relief. I could start thinking about my future.”

Although playing for an NCAA program is no longer an option, the process of continuing his football career has already begun. It began only hours after the word became official, and in reality, the brainstorming began far earlier than that. Nacita has already started researching NAIA schools in the area, and he is encouraged that he will be able to continue to play football somewhere.

It won’t be in Waco or at a program that carries the same prestige, but that is of limited importance now. There is a dream still to chase, and nothing will stop him from chasing it. The window to play football in front of fans and for himself is still open, even if it’s not like it once was.