UPDATE: Former St. Joe’s Center Writes Article Ripping Phil Martelli

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Hey, raise your hand if you’ve heard the one about Phil Martelli being a jackass?

No, no not that story, this one:

Yesterday, former (?) St. Joe’s center Todd O’Brien penned an article for SI.com. In it, the seven-footer explained that, in 2008, he had transferred to St. Joe’s after a successful season at Bucknell. Things went well at first (he led the Hawks in rebounding), but, last season, his playing time decreased as Martelli began starting his younger players– presumably the ones who were throwing down windmill dunks against Villanova (video here, thanks to reader Mark). 

O’Brien – an academic standout – learned of an NCAA rule that allows graduate students (he earned his degree in the summer) to transfer to another school and play without sitting out a year, something O’Brien had already done when he transferred to St. Joes. So, he informed Martelli of his decision to use up his final year of eligibility elsewhere.

This is how Martelli – who during a feature on Saturday night’s telecast said he believed computers were “a fad” – took that news.

In the words of O’Brien: [SI.com

I met with Coach Martelli to inform him that I would not be returning. I had hoped he would be understanding; just a few weeks before, we had stood next to each other at graduation as my parents snapped photo. Unfortunately, he did not take it well. After calling me a few choice words, he informed me that he would make some calls so that I would be dropped from my summer class and would no longer graduate. He also said that he was going to sue me. When he asked if I still planned on leaving, I was at a loss for words. He calmed down a bit and said we should think this over then meet again in a few days. I left his office angry and worried he would make me drop the classes.

A few days later I again met with Coach Martelli. This time I stopped by athletic director Don DiJulia's office beforehand to inform him of my decision. I told him I would be applying to grad schools elsewhere. He was very nice and understanding. He wished me the best of luck and said to keep in touch. Relieved that Mr. DiJulia had taken the news well, I went to Coach Martelli's office. I told him that my mind had not changed, and that I planned on enrolling in grad school elsewhere. I recall his words vividly: "Regardless of what the rule is I'll never release you. If you're not playing basketball at St. Joe's next year, you won't be playing anywhere."



Things calmed down, though, and O’Brien, thinking that St. Joe's was OK with his decision, eventually enrolled at the University of Alabama Birmingham. But when the NCAA transfer paperwork went through, St. Joe’s had checked “yes” in the box asking if they objected to the transfer. No reason was given. As such, for the first time ever, the NCAA didn’t allow this type of transfer because a school objected to “releasing” its former player. 

What has followed for O’Brien is months of frustrations with Martelli, St. Joe’s athletic director Don Dijulia and the school’s legal counsel. O’Brien currently practices with UAB, and sits on the bench during games, but he isn’t allowed to play… because St. Joe’s won’t let him.

Now, there are two ways to look at this: 1) Martelli is a vindictive jackass and a hypocrite (he once said all Big 5 games should be played at the Palestra, but was happy to host Villanova now that he has an arena with more than eight seats) who can’t help but rely on his id when making decisions, rather than use any sort of thought or reason.

Or, 2) O’Brien, who is now trying to play for his third college basketball team in five years, is a quitter and prefers to bail when the deck is stacked against him. And despite his woe is me story, Martelli won’t budge and let the kid bounce around the NCAA like a professional free agent, seeking a destination that suits him and only him. 

The truth is probably somewhere in the middle, though I’m leaning towards option one… until we learn more about O'Brien, which I'm sure we will.

Must-read article on SI.com.

H/T to, like, the 12 people who sent this to me

UPDATE: St. Joe's put out a statement today. It is after the jump.

Many of you have seen or commented upon a first-person story appearing yesterday on the web site of Sports Illustrated magazine. The story was submitted by a former Saint Joseph's University student-athlete whose request in mid-July 2011 for a waiver to play basketball at another institution during 2011-2012 was not supported by Saint Joseph's.

I write to assure our students, faculty, staff, alumni and friends that Saint Joseph's complied with all applicable NCAA procedures in this case. It is clearly not a part of the University's mission to block any student from pursuing their academic or athletic goals. However, it is the University's obligation to review all student-athlete waiver requests in a consistent manner and to evaluate the facts and circumstances of each request. It is worth noting that SJU has supported such requests a large majority of the time across its many varsity sports. If a request for a waiver is not granted and an appeal is taken to the NCAA, it is the national association, not individual member institutions, which makes the final determination on the eligibility of individual student-athletes.

Federal law and the University's own student privacy guidelines necessarily limit what the University can make public in matters involving individual students. Such limitation applies to the current matter and the University is mindful of its obligation to all its students, including former ones, regarding their privacy. What can be appropriately shared regarding this matter is that Saint Joseph's did provide all relevant information to the NCAA Legislative Relief Waiver Team, which, as a matter of public record, made an initial decision not to grant the requested waiver. Upon further appeal by the student-athlete, the Division I Legislative Council Subcommittee for Legislative Relief concurred with the initial review and made its final decision to deny the appeal. As only the student-athlete and his new university were parties to the appeal, Saint Joseph's will not make any public statements regarding the appeal and its outcome. 

Finally, I would be remiss in not acknowledging the consistent dedication — to all students and alumni of Saint Joseph's University — that is displayed every day by athletics director Don DiJulia and men's basketball coach Phil Martelli. These are men who are respected across the nation for their actions and priorities. We also acknowledge the contributions while on Hawk Hill of the student-athlete in this case, and regret the differences of opinion that led to his dissatisfaction with Saint Joseph's.

John Smithson '68 MBA `82
Interim President
Saint Joseph's University
December 20, 2011



20 Responses

  1. SJU has let a number of players transfer over the years (Abdulai Jalloh, Jawan Carter, Bryant Irwin, Chris Prescott, etc) with no problems.
    The problem here is Sports Illustrated who gave a forum to a disgruntled former Hawk. SJU can’t comment due to federal privacy laws. If this were really a story, why wouldn’t SI just sent a reporter to Philadelphia to investigate and report. Why just give O’Brien an open forum.
    The media should be ashamed that they are reporting a one-sided piece. But, SI reached out to Martelli and SJU for comment… I know. The problem is that talking about O’Brien’s situation would violate federal law.
    So, basically, O’Brien can rip SJU and run while fighting a PR battle.

    1. O’brien waved the student privacy laws, so they’re allowed to comment. I see no problem with O’brien taking his story public. The myth of Phil Martelli and his arrogance came to light when his fake-tough guy son was canned at Rutgers for behavior so inexcusable it defies description. The only thing that is sad is why people would defend this morally bankrupt institution that wont allow a kid to transfer.You need to get off of Martelli’s ballsack and wake up; he is a bully.

  2. federal privacy laws don’t apply to me
    the kid transferred because his advisor(i.e. agent) told him that if he wanted to play overseas that he needed more minutes and should transfer.
    he told martelli this in august, already a uncool move because his scholarship for this year could have been used somewhere else, but also after he had taken grad level courses. So through the summer he reciever free room and board, free classes,free athletic training, free academic tutoring etc. Which he still hasn’t paid for. His dad offered to pay for the classes after lawyers got into the mix this fall because he knew he was in the wrong.
    Not to mention he was given a second chance after being suspended last season for some not so intelligent decisions regarding a stolen laptop.

    1. So fucking what if he got free room and board? Why should that be a reason not to release him to play elsewhere? The irony is, he’s on a Latvian team ANYWAY…so the stupid arrogance of “Hawk Hill” can keep on trucking with their phony Martelli love. Im glad his pussy-ass son got caught and in trouble.

  3. What’s not in there is that Todd was suspended last year for being involved in stealing a bunch of laptops. Martelli had his back and brought him back to the team. Also, it leaves Martelli with just 8 or 9 scholarship players.
    With that being said, I do think they should release him. I just think Martelli’s side should be out there as well. The guy is trying to get his graduate degree and do good with his life even if he did make some big mistakes with those laptops last year. Especially with us being a Jesuit jersey, it is time that the university starts to practice what it preaches. And really, anyone who watched Todd for the last 2 years cant possibly think this team is better off with him. There is a reason his playing time rapidly slipped last year…

    1. Martelli was just pissed his other recruits fell through…Obrien was already investigated and punished 4 games for the laptop incident; one thing shouldnt have anything to do with the other. St Joe’s is as phony and full of shit as they come; they’re “Jesuit” BS is only used when it suits them. Martelli is a jerkoff for not allowing the kid to transfer. Dont tell me karma isnt a bitch because his bully son got fired. Apple doesnt fall far….

  4. Typical NOVA grad bullshit. Notice how this is a Philly sports blog and he didnt mention all weekend about how nova got dismantled by SJU. But he can post some crap that casts SJU in a bad light, with only hearing one side of the story. Shocker.

  5. Quit defending Martelli.
    How about DJ Rivera? He wasn’t getting along with Martelli, basically sucked a scholarship up without playing because he never went to class, and by all accounts was (and still is) a dispicable human being. Yet, Martelli didn’t like him and he got his release to trasfer to Binghamton (where he went on to help take that program down by being an all-world scumbag).
    The point is there have been worse kids that have done worse things than this kid, who has graduated by the way. Don’t give me some BS about a laptop, Martelli should release this kid from his scholarship. There is no reason not to….except, as stated in the above post, that Martelli is a jackass.

  6. Kyle, still waiting to hear on your Philly sports site about how S-J-U put the whipping on your team. Malvern Prep, Villanova? You know Philly doesn’t extend to your over-privileged ass out on the Main Line right?

  7. Please Martelli is a complete asshole. HE thinks SJU is on par with the big boys of college basketball.
    That smug look on his face every day says it all.

  8. you guys must have missed the monday morning roundup, where we talked about st. joes beating nova. also, don’t do college game recaps. never have.

  9. “The Hawk” and TID-
    *I have never commented here before*
    You guys are fucking idiots. Kyle runs a free service to us and enables us to see things from his point of view. You guys come with your biased bullshit- talking all kinds of meaningless garbage. When you pay the man to write HIS blog, the voice your distress….
    Until then, don’t visit or just shut the fuck up…..

  10. I love how all the SJU folks are getting up in a roar over this. Everyone knows Martelli is an ass, Rivera went through the same crap and get a better outcome, so why harp on O’Brien trying to do the same thing? If Martelli had not been such as ass about it, it probably would not have been a story.
    And yes, Nova got smoked by SJU. Can’t win ’em all every year. If you’re so pissed by lack of SJU coverage, go start your own blog. Except you can’t talk about anything but SJU basketball, since that’s the only thing that’s halfway decent about that school.

  11. Not exactly the same situation, but Pitt did this with Joe Flacco when he transferred to Delaware. Flacco wasn’t getting playing time under Wandstedt (or however you spell it) so Flacco transferred to UD. When he got there, Wandstedt wouldn’t release him from history scholarship, so Flacco had tobwait a year before he could play.

  12. Real story – Todd was lucky he didn’t get expelled (like another player did) last year for stealing laptops and covering it up. SJU suspended him, but let him stay in school to earn his degree. Martelli & the Administration felt disrespected that Todd then tried to bail on the team so late in the process.
    Anyone who knows Martelli (evidently Kyle does not) knows he is an honorable guy who would not try to screw someone over for no reason.
    Also, Todd, please never use the word “crestfallen” ever again.

  13. Kyle, the actual story behind the Palestra thing is that your beloved Wildcats wouldn’t let it happen. Martelli even offered for SJU home games to be at the Palestra and Nova home games to be at the Well, but Nova turned that down, not wanting to waste one of their precious Well games on SJU. So Martelli brought them to the field house. That’s the story and I’m a Nova guy.

  14. kid was hardly a standout student. I need to find out who helped him not only get through college, but become the “academic standout” he is.
    I could use the help

  15. and also, yeah, get your facts straight about Martelli wanting to play all big 5 at Palestra. Your precious Wildcats ruined that one. Same Wildcats who got embarrassed by SJU on Saturday. Funny there’s no mention of that on this blog.
    The question I want to know is, Why do you have this blog? Is it to report actual factual news on Philly sports? Or is it to try and rub elbows with whatever low-level Philly sports media (I use this term lightly) people who can stand you. This site used to be good. Its almost unbearable now. If you can’t take the “work load,” then get some people to post for you.
    What a joke.

  16. E,
    I know Martelli, and his daughter Liz, (dated one of her friends in high school).
    Martelli is a nice guy….to a point. He will shake everyone’s hands and play nice because he is an area icon. He is an asshole when most people are not around, but its not my place to talk about things i heard and saw. Let’s just say O’Brien is right that he is vindicative, however he only gets like that with because something happened. While I don’t hang out with Merion Mercy girls anymore, i won’t know what happened, but O’Brien probably did something to deserve the wrath of Phil.
    Liz Martelli is a typical wealthy Main Line girl and thats why she went to twitter. She was a lot like Rachel McAdams’ character in Mean Girls. She should just shut her mouth and stay off twitter.

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