At Stephen F. Austin State University in Nacogdoches, administrators plan to spend this week seeking answers to a question they never thought they would have to deal with: How do you legally distribute an unexpected philanthropic windfall to the family of a student athlete?
This, apparently, is what happens when a previously unknown basketball player hits a last-second shot to beat Duke during Thanksgiving week, and word quickly gets out that there is a GoFundMe campaign for the player’s family, whose home and church were badly damaged when Hurricane Dorian hit the Bahamas earlier this year.
“This has been unbelievable,” Norris Bain, whose son Nathan hit the aforementioned shot, said in an interview Thursday, after he watched tens of thousands of dollars pour into the account in 24 hours. “It has truly been life-changing.”
The water had risen more than 10 feet at the Bains’ home. Their church, where Norris is the pastor, was heavily hit, too.
Norris Bain said he was laying in bed in the Bahamas on Tuesday night, watching Stephen F. Austin push the No. 1-ranked Blue Devils into overtime when he turned to his wife, Ashell, with a premonition.
He told her he just knew — deep in his bones, the way a preacher or a father knows — that Nathan (who goes by Nate), a senior forward for the underdog Lumberjacks, was going to be the hero.
Ashell looked at her husband and laughed. “She said, ‘You crazy,’” Norris said. As it turned out, crazy was just limbering up.
With the final seconds winding down and the score tied, Duke lost the ball. After a scramble, it ended up in the hands of the Lumberjacks forward Gavin Kensmil who was on the seat of his pants underneath the basket. He flicked a pass to Bain, who eluded two defenders — and then, after he appeared to double dribble — raced the length of the court to score on a layup an instant before the buzzer sounded.
The Lumberjacks mobbed Bain. His basket handed Duke, a 27-1/2-point favorite, its first nonconference loss at Cameron Indoor Stadium in nearly 20 years, and the first at home to a mid-major team since 1983.
And that’s when the donations began to roll in — and in and in.
Kara Carpenter, Stephen F. Austin’s assistant athletic director for compliance, said the school had started a GoFundMe account in September to help Bain raise money for his parents’ home in a way that would not violate NCAA rules. It had raised about $2,000 by Tuesday night and had not had a contribution in a month. But after his layup and an emotional postgame television interview, donations skyrocketed. As of Friday afternoon, the total had climbed to more than $137,000 with more than 3,500 people contributing.
“We wanted to reach the most people and control the donations so that people weren’t handing him cash on the side of the road,” Carpenter said.
NCAA Bylaw 22.214.171.124 (g) was put on the books in 2001, long before online fundraising became popular. It allows schools to raise funds for athletes (and their families) who have been hit by extraordinary circumstances (e.g. natural disasters) as long as the schools track expenses and make sure that excess funds go to charity.
The limits of the bylaw were tested earlier this month when broadcaster Jay Williams wanted to set up a GoFundMe page to raise the $11,500 that Memphis freshman James Wiseman must donate to charity before he can become eligible once he completes a 12-game suspension. That is the amount of money Wiseman’s mother accepted from Memphis coach Penny Hardaway — then Wiseman’s high school coach — for moving expenses. The NCAA ruled that such an arrangement was not permissible.
Bain’s case, however, falls neatly within the NCAA guidelines. But the spike in donations made the case far less simple than it was before Bain’s game-winning shot.
Norris Bain said his 4,000-square foot home was insured for $350,000, but that it will likely cost more than that to rebuild. Two of the three building supply stores on the island were all but wiped out, leaving lumber and Sheetrock in short supply. The most efficient — albeit expensive — way to get building materials, he said, is to order them in Florida and have them shipped by boat to Freeport, which is about 90 miles east of Fort Lauderdale.
When the donations were a little over $2,000, as they were as recently as early Tuesday night, the money seemed certain to patch a hole or two in the rebuilding budget. Now, though, it could go to quite a bit more.
Carpenter said the funds would be distributed to the Bains once they provide receipts for goods and services that comply with the NCAA bylaws. It’s not clear the funds can be used to rebuild or refurbish the church where Norris has served as minister. Excess funds must be donated to a charity and it is unclear whether Tabernacle Baptist Church would be considered a charity, Carpenter said.
Dorian left more than 60 dead, more than 250 missing and caused more than $7 billion in damage.
“We lost a lot of material things, but I’m so thankful I can still see my daughters, my sons, my wife,” said Norris, who has four children between ages 27 and 11. “I have a neighbor who lost his wife. I saw a former student the Friday before the storm and she’s still missing. We’re learning to be thankful — just thankful to be alive.”
In the aftermath of the storm, Nate, 24, wanted to come home from school. But his parents insisted that Nate remain. They had sent him to Bel Aire, Kansas, in high school so that he might develop his basketball talent like another Bahamian, Buddy Hield, who is now with the Sacramento Kings.
Nate had endured surgeries to his knee (twice), ankle and back, missing nearly all of the 2016-17 season. He is on track to graduate in May with a degree in kinesiology and a minor in public health.