It looks like the Siena men's basketball team will be a much smaller club when they take the court this season.

The NCAA has ruled that freshman forwards Lionel Gomis and Imoh Silas both ineligible for the 2011-12 campaign.  However, both players will be allowed to return to the Saints roster next season.

The NCAA legislative relief staff has reversed its decision to uphold the legislation which restricted the athletic eligibility of Siena freshman Lionel Gomis following the 2012-13 season, providing him with two additional years of eligibility. Gomis and classmate Imoh Silas would still serve an academic year in residence at Siena in 2011-12 as a result of the staff’s latest ruling, and then each student athlete would have three years of athletic eligibility remaining, pending a final appeal for reconsideration.

The NCAA staff initially ruled Gomis (Dakar, Senegal/Blair Academy (N.J.)) would have to sit out the 2011-12 season, and then have just one year of athletic eligibility (2012-13). That decision was upheld by the subcommittee on legislative relief, but reversed by the staff today based on new information supplied by Siena’s compliance office.

“Our compliance staff and basketball coaches have done a great deal of work assembling documents and gathering information that led to Lionel earning back two years of eligibility,” director of athletics John D’Argenio said.

The NCAA decision to have players serve a year in academic residence and remove a year of athletic eligibility reflects delayed enrollment legislation that was adopted in April of 2010 and enacted in August. It states that a student athlete must complete their high school core curriculum requirements within a five-year period, or the international equivalent.

Once the rulings are published, Siena will have 30 days to file for the reconsideration for the reclassification year in both cases.

“We are happy for Lionel that the NCAA review staff took into consideration the additional documentation that we provided about his hardship and reinstated two years of eligibility,” D’Argenio said. “These cases are difficult to judge, and there can be extenuating circumstances. That’s why there are multiple steps to the process. We will continue to use all NCAA legislative relief options available to us in pursuing the fourth year of eligibility for both players.”

Gomis and Silas (Lagos, Nigeria/Holderness School, N.H.) were reclassified after moving from Africa to the United States by the preparatory schools they attended, causing their education to extend beyond the five-year window. Siena asked for a legislative relief waiver for both student athletes, but the NCAA staff indicated today that a waiver would only be granted if Siena could prove that extenuating circumstances led to the delayed enrollment. It noted that these circumstances would need to extend beyond any socioeconomic issues that may have led both players to leave their home countries.

“We will continue to seek new information to support a reconsideration of each case,” associate athletic director Joyce Eggleston, who oversees Siena’s compliance office, said. “Lionel and Imoh are eligible to practice and will retain their basketball scholarships.”