Alabama’s treatment of former player Daisha Simmons is shameful

3 Comments

I’ve written a lot over the years about student-athlete rights and the hypocrisy of the NCAA, and I wouldn’t blame you if you were tired of hearing about it.

I’m tired of writing about it, but I’m going to write about it again today anyway, because what Alabama is doing to Daisha Simmons is just about the most ridiculous thing I’ve seen a school do to a player.

Simmons plays for Alabama’s women’s basketball team. She was pretty good, too, averaging 13.8 points and 4.3 assists as a redshirt junior for the Crimson Tide. Simmons is from New Jersey, however, and after completing her undergraduate degree, she decided she wanted to return to the Garden State to finish up her final year of eligibility at Seton Hall. Having graduated, one would assume that it was a mere formality for Simmons to get cleared to play immediately, right?

Wrong.

You see, as Jerry Carino detailed in the Asbury Park Press this week, Simmons played her freshman season at Rutgers before transferring to Alabama, which complicates the matter. Instead of being eligible for the graduate transfer exception, which would grant her immediate eligibility if the graduate program she enrolls in at her new school isn’t offered at her previous school, she has to file for the graduate transfer waiver, which requires Alabama to release her and agree to allow her to play immediately.

And Alabama didn’t do that.

Why?

MORE: Background on Simmons’ decision to leave | Full timeline of her transfer

“Given the timing that she wanted to transfer” — late May — “left little or no time for the women’s basketball team to make alternate plans to replace her,” Alabama athletics director Bill Battle explained, according to Carino’s report.

In other words, Alabama doesn’t care about Simmons or the reasons surrounding her decision to transfer whatsoever. Battle and head coach Kristy Curry solely care about their program, which would be understandable if Simmons had left the school strictly for basketball purposes.

She didn’t.

She left Alabama for one, simple reason: The school didn’t accept her into the MBA program that she wanted to enroll in when she graduated in December. Instead, Simmons took a few elective classes just to stay eligible during the spring.

Then she decided to transfer back to New Jersey and into Seton Hall, where she was accepted into their MBA program, largely due to the fact that her 32-year old brother has end stage renal disease and undergoes dialysis multiple times per week while waiting for a kidney transplant. Her mother, according to Carino, works two jobs trying to support them.

To recap: Alabama refused to release a student-athlete who completed her undergraduate degree because, after she wasn’t accepted into the MBA program that she wanted to enroll in, she decided to move back home to be with her brother, who is fighting a disease that could kill him, while taking those graduate courses.

It’s worth noting here that four of her teammates reportedly transferred out of the program and received releases. But they left because they weren’t good enough. In other words, they were run off.

Very nice, Alabama.

At least the NCAA threw her a bone. They didn’t grant her immediate eligibility, but they did give her a sixth-year to use that final season of eligibility. So at least she’s on scholarship and taking classes, she just can’t play until 2015-2016. If she wants to finish her collegiate career, she’ll have to wait another year before contributing her earning power to her family’s income.

And before I’m done with my rant, let me make something clear: I understand that if Simmons’ family needs that much support, it may not be in her best interest to spend all of her time playing basketball. But that’s her decision to make, not Alabama’s. It won’t be easy, but it’s sure possible that she can manage her time well enough to practice, attend games, get her class work done and see her brother. And that’s saying nothing of the fact that it might bring her family a bit of joy to be able to see her play. Dialysis isn’t fun, but there’s no pick-me-up like cheering on your baby sister in a Big East basketball game.

Kristy Curry, Bill Battle and everyone at Alabama that made this decision should be ashamed of themselves. Petulance is a stinky cologne.

If you’d like to let them know that this upsets you, you can. The phone number for the women’s basketball office is 205-348-7077.

Bubbles brewing with season on horizon

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
4 Comments

INDIANAPOLIS — With the coronavirus pandemic already forcing changes for college basketball, a bubble may be brewing in Indianapolis.

Indiana Sports Corp. released a 16-page proposal Friday that calls for turning the city convention center’s exhibition halls and meeting rooms into basketball courts and locker rooms. There would be expansive safety measures and daily COVID-19 testing.

The all-inclusive price starts at $90,000 per team and would cover 20 hotel rooms per traveling party, testing, daily food vouchers ranging from $30-$50 and the cost of game officials. Sports Corp. President Ryan Vaughn said the price depends on what offerings teams or leagues choose.

“The interest has been high,” Vaughn said. “I think as conferences figure out what conference and non-conference schedules are going to look like, we’re we’re a very good option for folks. I would tell you we’ve had conversations with the power six conferences, mid-majors, it’s really kind of all over the Division I spectrum.”

Small wonder: The NCAA this week announced teams could start ramping up workouts Monday, with preseason practices set to begin Oct. 14. Season openers, however, were pushed back to Nov. 25 amid wide-ranging uncertainty about campus safety and team travel in the pandemic.

There is already scrambling going on and some of the marquee early-season tournaments have already been impacted.

The Maui Invitational will be moved from Hawaii to Asheville, North Carolina, with dates still to be determined and organizers clear that everyone involved “will be in a bubble environment that limits their movement and interaction outside the venue.” The Batttle 4 Atlantis has been canceled. The Cancun Challenge will be held in Melbourne, Florida, not Mexico.

More changes almost certainly will be coming, including what to do with the ACC-Big Ten Challenge.

“I think we’re past the guesswork on whether we play 20 conference games or more than that,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said Friday. “We’re trying to get everybody set like in terms of MTEs (multi-team events), figuring out when to play the ACC-Big Ten challenge.”

Painter, who was part of the NCAA committee that recommended how to start the season, noted part of the uncertainty stems from differing protocols imposed by campus, city and state officials.

In Indianapolis, Vaughn believes the convention center, nearby hotels, restaurants and downtown businesses, many within walking distance of the venue, could safely accommodate up to 24 teams. The 745,000-square foot facility would feature six basketball courts and two competition courts.

Anyone entering the convention center would undergo saliva-based rapid response testing, which would be sent to a third-party lab for results. Others venues could be added, too, potentially with more fans, if the case numbers decline.

If there is a taker, the event also could serve as a dry run for the 2021 Final Four, also slated for Indy.

“It’s not going to hurt,” Vaughn said. “I can tell you all the planning we’re doing right now is the same for a Final Four that’s been scheduled here for any other year. But it would be nice to have this experience under our belt to see if it can be done.”

Maui Invitational moving to North Carolina during pandemic

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
1 Comment

ASHEVILLE, N.C. — The Maui Invitational is moving to the mainland during the coronavirus pandemic.

One of the premier preseason tournaments on the college basketball schedule, the Maui Invitational will be played at the Harrah’s Cherokee Center in downtown Asheville, North Carolina.

Dates for the tournament announced Friday have yet to be finalized. The NCAA announced Wednesday that the college basketball season will begin Nov. 25.

This year’s Maui Invitational field includes Alabama, Davidson, Indiana, North Carolina, Providence, Stanford, Texas and UNLV.

All teams, staff, officials, and personnel will be in a bubble environment that limits their movement and interaction outside the venue.

Burton eligible at Texas Tech after 2 seasons at Wichita State

Peter G. Aiken-USA TODAY Sports
7 Comments

LUBBOCK, Texas — Junior guard Jamarius Burton has been granted a waiver from the NCAA that makes him eligible to play this season for Texas Tech after starting 52 games the past two seasons for Wichita State.

Texas Tech coach Chris Beard announced the waiver Thursday, which came five months after Burton signed with the Big 12 team.

Burton has two seasons of eligibility remaining, as well as a redshirt season he could utilize. He averaged 10.3 points and 3.4 assists per game as a sophomore at Wichita State, where he played 67 games overall.

Burton is from Charlotte. He helped lead Independence High School to a 31-1 record and the North Carolina Class 4A state championship as a senior there.

NCAA season set to open day before Thanksgiving

Getty Images
4 Comments

The NCAA men’s and women’s basketball season will begin on Nov. 25, the day before Thanksgiving.

The Division I Council voted Wednesday to push the start date back from the originally scheduled Nov. 10 as one of several precautions against the spread of coronavirus.

The later start date coincides with the decision most schools made to send students home from Thanksgiving until January out of concern about a potential late-fall and early-winter flareup of COVID-19. Closed campuses could serve as a quasi bubble for players and provide a window for non-conference games.

The maximum number of regular-season games has been reduced from 31 to 27. The minimum number of games for consideration for the NCAA Tournament was cut from 25 to 13.

Teams can start preseason practices Oct. 14 but will be allowed to work out 12 hours per week beginning Monday.

No scrimmages against other teams or exhibitions are allowed.

In other action, the council voted to extend the recruiting dead period for all sports through Dec. 31. In-person recruiting is not allowed during a dead period, though phone calls and other correspondence are allowed.

The men’s and women’s basketball oversight committees had jointly recommended a start date of Nov. 21, which would have allowed for games to be played on the weekend before Thanksgiving. The council opted not to do that to avoid a conflict with regular-season football games.

The council is scheduled to meet again Oct. 13-14 and could delay the start date and change other pieces of the basketball framework if circumstances surrounding the virus warrant.

UConn’s Tyrese Martin granted waiver to play this season

David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports
4 Comments

STORRS, Conn. — UConn swingman Tyrese Martin, who transferred from Rhode Island in April, has been granted a waiver that will allow him to play for the Huskies this season.

The 6-foot-6 junior averaged 12.8 points and 7.1 rebounds and started every game last season for URI, where he was recruited by current UConn coach Dan Hurley.

NCAA rules require undergraduate transfers to sit out a season, but the organization has been more lenient in granting waivers during the pandemic.

Martin, 21, is expected to compete for playing time at UConn on the wing as both a guard and small forward.