UConn head coach Geno Auriemma was not pleased in announcing that the NCAA had denied junior Evina Westbrook’s transfer waiver request on Friday.
Westbrook transferred from Tennessee when the Lady Vols fired head coach Holly Warlick after narrowly making the tournament. UConn filed a transfer waive for her to suit up this season, but the NCAA denied it.
“We were notified today that the waiver was denied, which is rather unfortunate for Evina obviously," Auriemma told reporters, via Alexa Philippou at the Hartford Courant. "It’s unfortunate that a student athlete’s life is being impacted by a committee sitting in Indianapolis making a decision on whether or not someone meets these arbitrary requirements, whether or not you can play or not right away.”
UConn, ranked No. 5 in the preseason poll, has filed an appeal, which could be decided as early as Wednesday. If the decision stands, she will sit out the 2019-20 season and have two years of eligibility remaining.
Auriemma hints at troubling situation: ‘not normal’
The NCAA requires football, basketball, baseball and men’s hockey players under scholarship to sit out one season after transferring unless they have already gotten an undergraduate degree. It’s a rule that has undergone much scrutiny, but that’s not why Auriemma was mad.
Neither UConn nor Westbrook have spoken about the case and why they believed she had a strong one for a waiver. The NCAA grants them for “specific, extraordinary circumstance” out of the player’s control and Auriemma implied Friday she had gone through a troubling situation in Tennessee.
“One of the comments that was made by the committee was, what was happening to Evina was pretty much normal," Auriemma said. "Well if that’s normal, then everybody else that I talk to has been doing it the wrong way. Because if one of my players went through what Evina went through, I think there would be an investigation here, and it wouldn’t be normal.”
After Tennesse’s early exit form the tournament, she told reporters “I just think off-the-court stuff [needs to be fixed], steps need to be taken with our staff and just overall off the court with this team." Four days before the firing was announced, she had entered the transfer protocol.
The 6-foot guard averaged 14.9 points and 5.3 assists — third best in school history — in 31 starts as a sophomore. She was a member of the SEC all-freshman team and a former No. 2 recruit.
Auriemma, UConn AD slam decision
Auriemma told reporters the NCAA deciding transfer waivers on personal interpretations is wrong and that there are plenty of issues the NCAA should be focused on instead. He wants to see it change to be a more solid rule.
“You start to wonder,” Auriemma said, “do people who work at the NCAA actually have any idea what goes on on campuses? Or should this decision be actually made by people who are on campuses, people who have coached, people who have been administrators?”
UConn athletic director David Benedict was also not pleased with the decision and what it means for athletes.
Evina Westbrook’s waiver to play this season at UConn is denied and athletic director David Benedict has some strong thoughts about it. pic.twitter.com/sKDoKjYnWf— Mike Anthony (@ManthonyCourant) November 1, 2019
“I was surprised for many reasons but mostly because the NCAA talks to us about serving the best interest of the student. It recognizes that there are situations in which a student shouldn’t have to sit out a year. It tells us what those are and what is required to prove it. And then you provide that — without opposition from the prior school — and you get denied.”
The Huskies provided more than 100 pages of supporting documentation, according to the Associated Press, and Tennessee did not oppose the waiver application. The schools are renewing their rivalry this year and meet Jan. 23 in Hartford for the first time since 2007.
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