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Blog Entry

St. Joe's won't free former player Todd O'Brien

Posted on: December 20, 2011 10:33 am
Edited on: December 20, 2011 11:55 am
 


By Jeff Goodman

Free Todd O'Brien. 

O'Brien is a former Saint Joseph's big man who has transferred to UAB, but isn't allowed to play because the school -- and coach Phil Martelli -- refuses to sign a waiver. 

Here's the letter O'Brien wrote on SI.com on Monday. 

O'Brien spent one season at Bucknell before transferring to St. Joe's, where he averaged 22.7 minutes his first season before getting only 7.2 minutes and averaging 1.0 point per game last season. 

O'Brien's lawyer, Don Jackson, told CBSSports.com the player was informed by Martelli in the spring that he didn't fit into the team's plans. 

O'Brien decided to take advantage of an NCAA rule in which a player who has graduated in four years, but has a year of eligibility remaining, can play immediately at another school -- as long as it's for academic purposes and the player is pursuing a graduate program that isn't offered at his old school. O'Brien is working on a master's degree in public administration. 

Jackson said O'Brien was given permission to talk to other schools, but Martelli and the school have not signed off on the waiver that would allow him to play at UAB.

Martelli did not return calls by CBSSports.com seeking comment, but the school did release comment. 

"Saint Joseph's University followed all applicable NCAA procedures and applied consistent internal practices in declining to support the requested transfer exception," the statement read. "Upon appeal, the NCAA legislative relief wavier team [initial decision] and the Division I Subcommittee for Legislative Relief [final decision] each reviewed the case and did not grant the requested waiver. Institutional policy and federal student records law prohibit Saint Joseph's from releasing additional or confidential information in this matter. As all eligibility determinations rest with the NCAA and not its member institutions, Saint Joseph's University has no further comment and considers the matter closed."

The school's interim president, John Smithson, also expressed his support for both Martelli and Saint Joseph's athletic director Don DiJulia in response to O'Brien's first-person letter on SI.com.  

Sources told CBSSports.com that a previous incident last season involving a stolen laptop might have contributed to Martelli's resentment toward O'Brien, even, according to Jackson, referring to him as the "most disloyal player he's ever coached." 

Pat Swilling Jr. was dismissed from the team in the laptop incident and Jackson said O'Brien sat out four games during an investigation. 

"Todd was investigated for having knowledge of it," Jackson said. "He sat out four games during the investigation, but was 100 percent cleared and reinstated." 

"What does the laptop issue have to do with releasing him or not?" Jackson asked. 

The other issue, sources told CBSSports.com, is that Martelli believed O'Brien knew all along he was going to transfer -- but didn't inform the staff or the school until July 18 and took three summer classes that were paid for by the school. Jackson reiterated that O'Brien was told he wasn't in Martelli's plans, but that something may have changed in terms of current players transferring or him not getting players into the program that were anticipated. 

Whatever the case, Martelli needs to let O'Brien play for Mike Davis and the Blazers. It wasn't as if O'Brien was a star. Once considered a big-time recruit back in the day for Bucknell, he had turned into an insurance policy for the Hawks in case someone got hurt. He averaged just one point per game, didn't play in several games last season, and didn't leave for a fellow Big 5 school or within the same league. He is at UAB, a program that is struggling and isn't on St. Joe's schedule this season. 

If he signs off on it, O'Brien would go from a practice player -- which he's been down at UAB since mid-October -- to someone who could likely play immediately. 

"UAB's compliance said that it could be done almost immediately," Jackson said. 

However, O'Brien sits in limbo for the time being while Martelli takes a public battering for his unwillingness to relent. 

It can all be over, though. Martelli just needs to let O'Brien go free. 

Photo: Getty Images


Comments

Since: Dec 19, 2006
Posted on: December 26, 2011 10:16 am
 

St. Joe's won't free former player Todd O'Brien

DBoman...He graduated from St Joe. Not sure where you interpreted that he didn't. That would be news to me. St Joe just refused to sign off on the release, which I believe, because he doesn't meet the transfer exception rule to go to another D1 school.



Since: Apr 11, 2011
Posted on: December 22, 2011 12:18 pm
 

St. Joe's won't free former player Todd O'Brien

Do you think they are the only school that has never released a player?   If so then why does the NCAA even have that rule in place? 



Since: Apr 11, 2011
Posted on: December 22, 2011 12:16 pm
 

St. Joe's won't free former player Todd O'Brien

Your beef should be with the NCAA.   Why don't they let him play at UAB?   Why does St. Joes have any say in the matter?


The kid also screwed himself.  He could transfer to D-11 school and play without St. Joes release.  He also waited until the LAST day of the semester to inform Martelli that he was going to transfer.  At that point St Joes could not fill that scholarship and it pissed them off.    



Since: Jan 2, 2007
Posted on: December 22, 2011 10:46 am
 

St. Joe's won't free former player Todd O'Brien

Atl-go, yes and no.  If St. Joe's blocked his graduation by having him dropped from classes, then they've got a bigger problem on their hands.  I read that his family offered to pay for the remaining summer classes that would have allowed him to graduate.  If he had graduated, there's nothing that would have prevented him from playing ball at UAB-- especially since St. Joe's doesn't offer a graduate program in the field he's chosen at UAB.

If O'Brien was in good standing with the academic department, then the athletic department overstepped its bounds by blocking him from taking classes or being able to complete his coursework.  The rules say one thing but you also have to consider what prevented him from graduating.  It certainly wasn't his grades if they let him walk in the May graduation ceremony while expecting him to complete his classes over the summer.  If you're St. Joe's, you have to stop hiding behind the regulations and rules and man up.  If O'Brien did something wrong, call him on it publicly.  He opened the door when he published his article in Sports Illustrated.  If he didn't do something beyond pissing off Phil Martelli, then release him and get the whole mess over with.



Since: Dec 20, 2011
Posted on: December 22, 2011 12:22 am
 

St. Joe's won't free former player Todd O'Brien

atl-go jackets:  Great work!  As usual, less is more.  You hit the nail right on the head.  O'Brien is not eligible. So, basically, Saint Joseph's and the NCAA are accurate.  I'm surprised O'Brien didn't know this.  Go to the following link to better understand the regulations: 

http://www.ncaa.org/wps/portal/ncaa

home?WCM_GLOBAL_CONTEXT=/ncaa/NCAA/Legis

lation+and+Governance/Eligibility+a
nd+Recruiting/Faqs/eligibility_seas
ons
.html#graduate_student_eligibility



Since: Dec 19, 2006
Posted on: December 21, 2011 8:58 pm
 

St. Joe's won't free former player Todd O'Brien

Russell Wilson had not transferred previously



Since: Dec 19, 2006
Posted on: December 21, 2011 8:57 pm
 

St. Joe's won't free former player Todd O'Brien

Sorry that came out all jumbled? You can find this in the FAQ section on "Redshirts, Age Limits, and Graduate Participation". Or just google "NCAA grad student transfer" and you'll see that this case is not eligible.



Since: Dec 19, 2006
Posted on: December 21, 2011 8:51 pm
 

St. Joe's won't free former player Todd O'Brien

He isn't eligible http://www.ncaa.org/wps/portal/ncaa

home?WCM_GLOBAL_CONTEXT=/ncaa/NCAA/Legis

lation+and+Governance/Eligibility+a
nd+Recruiting/Faqs/eligibility_seas
ons
.html See bullet point #2. Not eligible. The cases where this has happened previously have not involved players that have already transferred.



Since: Dec 20, 2011
Posted on: December 21, 2011 5:29 pm
 

St. Joe's won't free former player Todd O'Brien

Bizona:  Happy Holidays!  I do want to clarify that I did not place words in your mouth.  You said, "doesn't everyone try to use whatever system they work within to their advantage? If they don't, they're probably not going very far."  The words have a certain implication.  Do what you need to do to get ahead.  Maybe that wasn't your intetion.

But O'Brien did take advanage.  Here's a question for you and to all readers, do you think this hurts O'Brien's prospects for a career position after college?  Would you bring him in for an interview?

By the way, I did like your later responses.  They were better thought out.  

Happy Holidays.





Since: Apr 6, 2008
Posted on: December 21, 2011 5:15 pm
 

St. Joe's won't free former player Todd O'Brien

Two words.  Public relations!   Does St. Joe's not have a PR department?  It doesn't matter what the reality is; it only matters what the preception of the reality is.  That's what PR is all about.  Spin, baby, spin.

Clearly the public is going to see St. Joe's as the bad guy, vindictive, petty and mean spirited.  They just put themselves in a lose lose situation.  They really had nothing to lose by just releasing the guy and letting it die.  Unless something major comes up that we don't know yet, this was a very stupid move.


The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com