Alabama’s treatment of former player Daisha Simmons is shameful

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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.