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
Saint Joseph's University
December 20, 2011