(WCIA) — Illinois center and Big Ten Preseason Player of the Year Kofi Cockburn will miss the first three games of the 2021-22 regular season, due to an NCAA suspension for selling team issued apparel and memorabilia in June. Cockburn will miss Illinois’ season opener against Jackson State on November 9th, Arkansas State on November 12th, and the Gavitt Tipoff Games against Marquette on November 15th.
Cockburn declared for the NBA draft after the 2020-21 season, and sold team gear before deciding to return to Illinois. This occurred before July 1st, when the State of Illinois and NCAA put laws in place allowing players to profit for their name, image, and likeness without being in violation of rules. Cockburn will repay the money he made from selling gear by making a donation to a charity of his choice.
“We are disappointed with the three-game suspension, because there were unprecedented factors and altered timelines related to his decision to ultimately withdraw from the NBA Draft and return to school,” said Illinois Head Coach Brad Underwood in a statement. “Once Kofi had a full understanding of where he stood regarding the draft, he made an educated decision to return to school, work toward his degree, and continue improving his game. That said, we understand and respect the NCAA’s decision in this matter, and we will move forward accordingly. As always, Kofi’s attitude and outlook remain upbeat and positive. He is focused on helping his teammates prepare for the season, and we can’t wait to have him rejoin us on the court.”
Cockburn will still be able to practice with the team during his suspension, and will be able to return for the first game of the Hall of Fame Classic against Cincinnati in Kansas City, MO.