Arsalan Kazemi might never have transferred to Oregon where he has been instrumental in the Ducks' Sweet 16 run this season if not for alleged racial discrimination he said he endured for three years from the athletic director at Rice University.
SI.com reported Kazemi, the first Iranian-born player in NCAA Division I history, was allowed to transfer to Oregon without sitting out the customary season because of a hardship waiver he obtained from the NCAA. In applying for the waiver, SI.com reported that Kazemi told the NCAA Rice athletic director Rick Greenspan regularly made derogatory comments of a racial and religious nature to him, two former teammates and a former assistant coach. Kazemi is Muslim.Kazemi told the NCAA that when talking with a teammate in Arabic, Greenspan asked if they were having an "Al-Qaeda meeting." It was one of numerous incidents of similar comments Kazemi alleged were made by Greenspan during his time at the school.
The former assistant, Marco Morcos, an Egyptian native, was not retained last year and all three players left the program. Omar Oraby, an Egyptian, also was granted a hardship waiver and transferred to USC, according to the report. The third player, Ahmad Ibrahim, turned pro to play in his native Lebanon.
Kazemi said in his waiver request that Greenspan told Morcos to "recruit more terrorists" on multiple occasions.
Greenspan denied the allegations when contacted by the website.
"I'm glad he's having success in the postseason, but we at the university categorically deny any allegations of discriminatory treatment that might be claimed during his time at Rice," Greenspan said.
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The school also issued a statement calling the allegations "meritless" and said head coach Ben Braun and Greenspan strongly denied the allegations.
Morcos alleged discrimination in a complaint with the federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, SI.com reported citing Morcos' attorney.
Kazemi, a 6-foot-7 forward, leads the Ducks in rebounding with 10 per game and has averaged more than nine points a game. Oregon received the No. 12 seed in the Midwest Region of the NCAA tournament, despite winning the Pac-12 tournament. The seeding hasn't been a problem for the Ducks who face Louisville tonight in the Sweet 16. Louisville is the No. 1 overall seed in the tournament.
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