Illini’s Cockburn to sit at 3 games for selling items too early



Kofi Cockburn of Illinois dunks during the first half of the NCAA Team Exposure College Basketball game against Indiana of Pennsylvania on Friday, October 29, 2021 in Champaign, Illinois (AP Photo / Michael Allio )


The NCAA has suspended Illinois center Kofi Cockburn for the first three games of the season because he sold clothing and memorabilia before new regulations came into effect allowing athletes to participate in profit-making activities.

The preseason Associated Press All-American is scheduled to play its first game Nov. 22 against Cincinnati in Kansas City, Missouri, according to the school’s announcement Monday.

The 7-footer center will miss 11th-ranked Illini’s first two home games on Nov. 9 against Jackson State and Nov. 12 against Arkansas State, as well as a Nov. 15 game against Marquette at the Gavitt Tipoff Games. He is allowed to train with the team during the suspension.

The suspension is required as part of the reinstatement process that was triggered because Cockburn sold institutional clothing and memorabilia in June, the university said. The state of Illinois and the NCAA enacted a new Name, Image, and Likeness Act on July 1 that would have made these sales permitted.

In addition to any missed matches, Cockburn will reimburse the amount generated from the sale of clothing by donating to a charity of its choice. It was not immediately clear how much that would represent.

“We are disappointed with the three-game suspension as there were unprecedented factors and changed timelines related to his decision to ultimately withdraw from the NBA Draft and return to school,” said the Illinois coach Brad Underwood in a statement Monday. “Once Kofi fully understood where he stood in the draft, he made an informed decision to go back to school, work to graduate and continue to improve his game.

“That said, we understand and respect the NCAA ruling in this matter, and we will move forward accordingly. As always, Kofi’s attitude and outlook remains upbeat and positive. He’s focused on helping his teammates prepare for the season, and we can’t wait for him to join us on the pitch.

Cockburn averaged 17.7 points and 9.5 rebounds per game last season to clinch a berth on the AP All-America team’s second team. He was to be taken at the end of the first round or the start of the second round of the NBA Draft, but decided to go back to school.

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