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UABs transfer troubles

On January 24, 2012

As the Thundering Herd men's basketball team prepares to take on the University of Alabama-Birmingham on Wednesday, the Blazers will be missing a 7-foot, 250-pound player that has never donned a UAB uniform.

That's because 22-year-old graduate student Todd O'Brien's appeal for a transfer release from Saint Joseph's University was denied one week ago.

O'Brien, who played two years under Saint Joseph's coach Phil Martelli, graduated last summer and chose UAB in order to pursue a graduate degree in public administration.

Unfortunately for O'Brien, Martelli and Saint Joe's athletic director Don DiJulia denied the player's transfer request. Last Wednesday, the NCAA made the decision official, denying O'Brien's appeal.

This decision is wrong on several levels.

First of all, O'Brien was looking to move to a program Saint Joe's does not offer. To punish a student for wanting to move to a different school for education reasons is unfathomable, especially when O'Brien has a full year of eligibility remaining in his basketball career.

The next problem that arises in this situation is that this is not an uncommon practice. Don't believe me?

Marshall fans, see Willy Korn.

Remember him?

Korn transferred to Marshall after graduating from Clemson in 2009. Korn came to the Herd football program to take a shot at the starting quarterback job while attending grad school. Sure, Korn was moved to the defense and subsequently disappeared from the Marshall campus faster than the fleeting thought of baseball field. But I digress.

Point is, Todd O'Brien should be dressing Wednesday night, and every other night for that matter.

Sure, O'Brien had a bit of a fallout at Saint Joe's. Last season, an on campus incident left him suspended for four games. O'Brien was reinstated on the team after the incident but only averaged a little more than seven minutes per game on the year.

An article by SportingNews on Thursday reported that O'Brien stated Martelli and the Hawks were denying him his transfer release "because he's (Martelli) angry the 7-footer decided to transfer." The article continued to denote that Martelli has yet to comment on the situation.

"I don't know why this happened," O'Brien told ESPN that same day. "I'm mad. It's so stupid. It's so petty."

Kudos, Mr. O'Brien.

O'Brien had the fortitude to come out and say exactly what everyone should be thinking. And petty is the only way to describe it. Perhaps sour grapes works as well.

Then, as if it was not bad enough that Martelli shot down a request from a player who averaged a meager one point per game in his final season with the Hawks, the NCAA chose to compound the problem by denying the appeal.

Here's hoping they know something I don't.

If not, it's time to reevaluate the transfer process for a grad student. Take it out of the coaches' hands. Let players decided where they want to go to grad school. And if they have a year or two left of basketball eligibility, let them play.

ESPN reported Thursday that O'Brien and his attorney are looking into other courses of legal action.

Here's hoping he finds it.

Jake Snyder can be contacted at

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