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Add another track to the NCAA's greatest hits album

If you spent any time watching the NCAA Tournament this spring, surely you saw this commercial or its variations at least once. 

"Think of the NCAA as a spirit squad cheering for student-athletes at every big event and every small one," the narrator says. "Just know we're always there for student-athletes."

Please allow me to pause this column as I go lose my lunch.

The narrator did have one thing exactly right. The NCAA is always there, never missing an opportunity to legislate student-athletes out of a once in a lifetime experience. The latest chapter to the NCAA's catalogue came over the weekend in Colorado Springs, as Prince Harry stopped by the Air Force football facility to meet head coach Troy Calhoun and exactly zero Falcons players. 

As the Colorado Springs Gazette details, Prince Harry's visit was such a big deal it was kept under wraps from just about anyone that wasn't on a need-to-know basis. Air Force was only able to get Calhoun on the field with the British royal after applying for a special waver from the NCAA, where he threw passes to a band of lucky intramural players. 

Actual Air Force players were kept away because of NCAA rules "limiting athletes' interactions with celebrities in a team capacity." Presumably this rule is on the books to keep schools like USC and UCLA from shuttling in the likes of Snoop Dogg to meet with players, because otherwise recruits and players would have no idea those schools sat in the shadow of Hollywood, right? And if the NCAA was ever going to make an exception to this rule, why not for a group of student-athletes that sacrifice years of their life at the very least, and oftentimes it's a whole lot more than that, to serve this country. 

The NCAA should have used an ounce of common sense should have told the bureaucrats in Indianapolis that Prince Harry has a lot more important things to do than touring the world stumping for Troy Calhoun and the Air Force Falcons. The British government doesn't make Prince Harry's schedule available to me, but my ounce of common sense says Harry won't be trekking back to Colorado Springs any time soon, and certainly not while this crop of Falcons players is at the Academy. Add it all up and you get yet another unnecessary mark in a long line of over-legislated blunders by an NCAA so burdened with procedure and regulation it can hardly move. Air Force players were denied an opportunity that likely won't ever come again, a chance to meet one of the most widely known people on the Earth, to tell their kids 30 years from now about how they once shook the hand of the prince of England. 

I don't know about you, but that doesn't sound like a very enthusiastic spirit squad to me. It sounds like an organization so addicted to red tape, it's completely enveloped in it.