— Ken Mink's return to college basketball has turned sour — just like it did 53 years ago.
Mink was kicked off the Lees College (Ky.) team as a freshman in 1956 when he was accused of spraying the coach's office with shaving cream. He says he was wrongly blamed.
Now 73, Mink became a minor celebrity when he made the roster at Roane State, a junior college outside of Knoxville. When he made his debut in November, he was the oldest person to ever play college basketball.
A few months later, Mink has been ruled ineligible to play by the National Junior College Athletic Association because of what Mink calls "a total miscarriage of justice."
"It's a nightmare. It’s déjà vu 1953," he said Friday. "My wife said, “Ken, are you cursed or what?”
The problem stems from the minimum amount of credits a player needs to maintain his eligibility. Mink enrolled in 12 hours, but when it looked like he might not pass Spanish, his coach, Randy Nesbit, suggested Mink take another class just in case.
The school suggested he enroll in an online course from Strayer University. Mink says he was told Strayer's course is considered "a quality course and can be transferred to Roane without any problems."
So he plunked down $1,500 for an online sociology class and earned a "B." Good thing, too, because he did end up failing Spanish. Still, he was told the sociology course would offset Spanish and keep him eligible.
Except the NJCAA disagreed.
The organization contends Roane did not follow proper procedure to restore his eligibility. Mink played in a Feb. 7 game — and scored 2 points — but the NJCAA later ruled that Roane would have to forfeit that game because of Mink's participation.
Mink says the administrative decision boggles his mind, his coach's and his teammates. They think he should be eligible.
"The college president agreed. They appealed [Thursday]," Mink said.
"What’s bad about it is it’s so blatantly wrong, is that it’s terrible. Guys on the team are devastated, fans are devastated."
Roane played in Morristown, Tenn., against Walters State last week and talked to people who attended the game on the off chance he would play.
"They said, well, you’re not playing, and they left," he said. "Even the Walters State coach said, 'Ken, Why aren’t you dressed out?' I explained it to him and he said ‘What? I don’t care! Get your uniform on and play!' "
Roane State's last home game is Feb. 25. Mink hopes an eligibility decision is made by then, but he didn't sound optimistic on Friday.
"Maybe they’ll see the logic of what they’re doing and reverse themselves before Wednesday," he said.
"I'm hoping this little cloud over my head gets going."