No. 11 Illinois will be without preseason Big Ten Player of the Year Kofi Cockburn for its first three games of the season while the star is being forced to sit because of an NCAA suspension. Cockburn sold “institutionally issued apparel and memorabilia” in June before it was permissible to do so under NIL guidelines, according to a statement from Illinois.
The sales would have been legal under name, image and likeness legislation in the state of Illinois, which was enacted on July 1, but it was illegal under NCAA rules at the time because it took place in June.
Cockburn will repay the amount he gained from the apparel sales through a charitable donation, according to the terms of the suspension.
Illinois men’s basketball coach Brad Underwood said he was “disappointed” in the NCAA’s ruling.
“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,” Underwood said. “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.”
The 7-foot Jamaica native was named a preseason All-American last month after earning first-team All-Big Ten and second-team All-America honors last season. He averaged 17.7 points, 9.5 rebounds and 1.3 blocks, while shooting 65.4% from the field.
The Illini open against Jackson State on Nov. 9 and and play Arkansas State on Nov. 12.