Wichita State will have a slight advantage over the rest of its peers in the Missouri Valley Conference during the 2014-15 season.
The Shockers will be the only Valley team that will face Illinois State without promising forward Deontae "Teddy" Hawkins on the floor.
Hawkins failed to qualify academically at Wichita State last fall after originally signing with the Shockers, instead spending the 2012-13 school year in prep school before committing to Illinois State. Intra-conference transfers in the Valley typically can’t play for another league member for two years after first attending collegiate classes, but Illinois State petitioned for a waiver for Hawkins since he had never actually enrolled at Wichita State.
League commissioner Doug Elgin said Illinois State proposed the Valley to grant Hawkins partial relief from the two-year rule by allowing him to play in every game during the 2014-15 season except the Redbirds' two regular-season matchups against Wichita State. A committee of five league officials met about the request for three hours and ultimately decided to grant it last week.
"We think it served to protect the balance of interests between Wichita State, Illinois State and also the conference," Elgin said. "There are competing interests when you have a situation like this, and all of these kinds of cases are complex. There was an initial consideration that he'd sit not only the two regular season games against Wichita State but also should the two meet in the tournament, but it was decided the two games were enough."
The compromise will benefit both Illinois State and Wichita State because Hawkins has the potential to be an impact player for the Redbirds assuming he is able to get his academics in order. The 6-foot-8 forward once had offers from mid-level SEC, ACC and Big East schools and possesses good athleticism and outside shooting.
What's interesting about the compromise is that the fan base with the biggest gripe about it may not be one of the schools involved.
Northern Iowa fans have pointed out the similarities between Hawkins' situation and that of Doug McDermott after he reneged on his 2010 decision to sign with Northern Iowa and joined his father at Creighton instead. McDermott was able to play immediately for the Bluejays and never had to sit out against the Panthers.
Elgin said the difference with the McDermott case was his rationale for transferring. He saw the opportunity to play for his father suddenly materialize after Creighton hired Greg McDermott following the unexpected departure of Dana Altman to Oregon.
"I think that's quite different [from the Hawkins case] from the standpoint of the reasons why Doug wanted to transfer," Elgin said.
It won't appease Northern Iowa fans, but Elgin is correct the proper decision was made in McDermott's case.
It would have looked bad for Northern Iowa to have tried to prevent a kid from playing for his father -- even at a league rival. Plus, Ben Jacobson and Greg McDermott are close friends, so perhaps the Northern Iowa coach didn't feel comfortable asking the league to have the younger McDermott sit out as a freshman against the Panthers.