Illinois star Kofi Cockburn suspended three games for selling merchandise before NIL rule change


Illnois center Kofi Cockburn, one of the nation’s top big men, has been suspended for his team’s first three games by the NCAA.

Cockburn, a junior, has been hit with a three-game suspension for selling apparel and memorabilia in June, before NCAA policy on name, image and likeness took effect.

“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,” Illinois coach Brad Underwood said 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.”

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An All-American and two-time All-Big Ten honoree, Cockburn declared for the 2020 NBA Draft in April, following the conclusion of the Illini’s season. After declaring for the draft, Cockburn partnered with a company called The Players Trunk and sold his gear and merchandise through their website.

He then pulled his name from the draft and entered the transfer portal before electing to return to Illinois for his junior season. He averaged 17.7 points and 9.5 rebounds per game last season while shooting 65.4 percent from the field last season.

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Cockburn will also repay the money made off the sale of his merchandise and donate it to a charity of his choice, Iliinois announced.

The Illini open the season ranked No. 11 in the AP Poll and take on Jackson State, Arkansas State and Marquette in the their first three games of the season. Cockburn will be eligible to return Nov. 22 against Cincinnati. 

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