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Birthday discount is the reason the NCAA suspended New Mexico’s Jamal Fenton

Jeff Eisenberg
The Dagger

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Jamal Fenton (getty images)

Had New Mexico guard Jamal Fenton known an Albuquerque hotel was giving him a $250 discount on the ballroom he was renting for his 21st birthday, he insists he wouldn't have accepted it.

Instead, Fenton accepted the ballroom at the reduced rate of $500 rather than $750 last April, landing him in hot water with the NCAA.

The NCAA suspended Fenton last week for three games for a minor violation of NCAA rules, but the reason for the penalty was not initially disclosed. In response to an open records request filed by the Albuquerque Journal, New Mexico then released documents to the local media revealing the birthday party was the culprit.

"If I would have known the real price, I still would have got it because money wasn't the issue," Fenton said in one of the documents released to the Journal. "I had no idea I was getting a good price on the ballroom because this was my first time ever throwing a party in a ballroom and the price she gave me already sounded like a lot."

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A sales representative at the hotel corroborated Fenton's claim that he did not ask for a discount but confirmed the hotel lowered the price for the ballroom because it was a New Mexico student-athlete seeking to rent it. That's an automatic penalty in the eyes of the NCAA because it's an extra benefit a typical student would not receive.

By NCAA rules, any extra benefit from $100 to $300 requires a three-game suspension, a harsh penalty considering the offense, yet at least one the organization has been consistent about enforcing. Fenton also had to pay the money back to a charity of his choice.

According to a New Mexico spokesman, Fenton donated $400 to the UNM Children's Hospital during the summer when the NCAA initially ruled he had received a $400 impermissible benefit.  The NCAA later altered its stance and ruled the impermissible benefit was $250, but Fenton left his donation as is.

Fenton, a 5-foot-9 senior who averaged 6.5 points and 2.4 assists last season, will sit out New Mexico's opener against Davidson and two games during the Paradise Jam. That's costly for New Mexico because those are difficult nonconference games, but the Lobos do have a wealth of depth at guard to make up for Fenton's absence.

(Thanks, Eye on College Basketball)

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