Indiana’s scholarship situation has worked itself out, and there will be plenty of people who will have their stomachs turn over as a result of how it played out.
Heading into this summer, Indiana had 15 scholarship players. One of them — Ron Patterson — struggled enough in summer school that he saw his faculty sponsorship get taken away. He was not admitted into the University and will spend next season at Brewster Academy in New Hampshire.
Unfortunately, however, that was the only scholarship that opened up. No one went pro. No one was kicked off the team. No one opted to become a walk-on.
Which, unfortunately, means that Matt Roth was left without a spot on the team. From The Hoosier Scoop:
Indiana started classes last week and without him in the picture, the Hoosiers have 13 players on scholarship, which is exactly the NCAA limit. Roth, who already has a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree, isn’t enrolled for the fall semester, and has accepted the fact that his college basketball career is over.
“School has started, and they’ve got their guys that are there on scholarship,” Roth said. “They’ve got the right number of guys. I’m not enrolled and I’m not on scholarship. I never told them I was ready to move on, but I gotta look out for my best interest now. There’s no sense in hoping. I don’t know if it’s even possible now.”
Roth said he and Crean spoke briefly at camp, but he didn’t want to pull Crean away from coaching the young players at the camp. Roth said even though Crean didn’t directly address his status, he did tell Roth to use him as a reference for any job applications. He said he appreciated that, but it also allowed him to read between the lines.
“You kind of put one and one together there,” Roth said.
That sucks, and I truly do feel bad for Roth here. He graduated school in four years, earning a master’s in the process, but found himself a victim of the numbers game when he still had eligibility remaining. It sucks when you find our you’re not good enough. I wouldn’t wish getting cut on anyone, especially a fifth-year senior.
But I think that, in this situation, the only thing that Tom Crean did wrong was that he strung Roth along. Look, Crean honored Roth’s commitment to Indiana. He gave him four years worth of scholarships, which was enough to get Roth two degrees without crippling student loans, a trip to the Sweet 16, and a chance to experience one of the most memorable moments in recent college basketball history. He participated in Senior Night last year.
But for as good of a shooter as Roth is, would a fifth-year for him really be beneficial for the program? Would it be worth pulling a scholarship from another kid on the roster that hasn’t had the opportunity to get his degree yet?
This is big-time college sports. This isn’t YMCA basketball. If you aren’t good enough, you’ll get cut. And unfortunately, Roth isn’t good enough.
(The painful irony here is that Roth enrolled at Indiana when no one wanted to go there. His career began when Indiana was an afterthought and ends with him being forced to waste his final year of eligibility while watching Indiana make a run at a national title from the stands.)
I just wish that Crean would have told him. I wish that Roth didn’t have to say, “You kind of put one and one together there”, or that he has to admit that he’s going to be scrambling to figure out something to do with himself this year. Because he would have had opportunities. He could have transferred elsewhere and been eligible immediately. I’m sure that there are plenty of schools that would love to add a kid that shot 54.5% from three in the Big Ten.
I know why Crean didn’t. If, say, Victor Oladipo decided he wanted to transfer closer to his home in the DC area, Crean wanted to have a body to take his place. And to be fair, I think that Roth may have heard “We got a real shot at getting you a scholarship this season” when Crean said something like “If anything happens, we’ll call on you to fill the spot.” Desiring an outcome breeds optimism, and I think it’s pretty easy to realize that Roth really wanted that fifth-year as a Hoosier.
I feel for Roth, and, to a point, for Crean as well. He put himself in a tough situation.
But in hindsight, I think the best option would have been for Crean to tell this kid to move on.
Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.