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St. Joe's won't release me to play at UAB and I don't know why

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St. Joe's won't release me to play at UAB and I don't know why

When you're seven-feet tall, you expect people to ask: "Do you play basketball?" While I still get this question all the time, I'm not sure what to tell them these days. I have a basketball scholarship this season at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. I practice with the team, work out with the team, and dress with the team. But then the games start and I am pinned to the bench, ineligible to play. It's not about grades or discipline or injury. It's more simple -- and more complicated -- than that. My former school, Saint Joseph's in Philadelphia, won't sign a simple form releasing me.

Todd O'Brien graduated from Saint Joseph's this summer and is taking graduate classes at UAB, but his old school won't give him a release so he can play.

Here's my story:

My name is Todd O'Brien. I'm 22 years old. In 2007, I became the first person from Garden Spot High (located in Lancaster County in New Holland, Pa.) to earn a Division I basketball scholarship. I attended Bucknell University from 2007 to 2008, where I made the Patriot League All-Rookie team. After the season, I decided the school and its basketball program weren't the right fit for me. I wanted to follow the footsteps of my uncle Bruce Frank, a former Penn player, and play in the Big 5. I transferred and was given a full scholarship to play basketball at St. Joe's for coach Phil Martelli. After sitting out in 2008-2009, I earned the starting center spot for the 2009-2010 season. Though our team struggled, I was able to start 28 games and led the team in rebounding. I also was the recipient of the team's Academic Achievement award for my work in the classroom.

Entering the next season, I had aspirations of keeping my starting role, increasing my productivity on the court, and most importantly -- winning more games. Off the court my goal was to continue getting good grades and to position myself to earn my degree studying Economics.

As the season got under way, however, things didn't exactly go as planned. Our team struggled and I saw my playing time decrease more and more as Coach Martelli opted to play the young members of our team. I had never sat on the bench before in my career, and to be honest, it was very frustrating. At the same time I understood that college athletics is a business; if the coaching staff felt they had the best chance to win by playing certain guys, it was their duty to do so. As the season went on things did not improve much, but on a brighter note I entered my last semester as an undergrad. On top of my regular classes, I had picked up an independent study internship at the Delaware County Municipal Building, where the focus of my study was on local economics.

Though I still needed to pass three summer courses to officially earn my degree, I was allowed to walk in graduation that May. At the urging of my parents, my Economics advisor and other family friends, I began looking at graduate programs for the fall semester.

A friend asked why I didn't just go get a grad degree and play elsewhere. He had seen that Michigan State had just landed a big-time scorer by way of Valparaiso thanks to an NCAA rule that allowed graduated players with eligibility left to pursue a grad degree elsewhere and play immediately, provided the school offers a degree option not available at the previous school.

I was familiar with the rule, but had never given it much thought. To be honest, I didn't want to be "that guy", the player who had bounced around to three schools in five seasons. I dismissed the idea initially, but it still lingered in the back of my mind. And when my Saint Joseph's scholarship papers for my fourth year of eligibility arrived at my house that May, I held onto them rather than sign immediately.

After I finished up my first summer course in June, I began to think more and more about applying for grad school elsewhere. The real world seemed to be fast approaching, and I had a decision to make. I discussed my options with my parents (my father, Roy, is a college math professor and my mother, Pam, is a Para-Educator) and a former coach of mine with whom I'm very close, and they all told me the same thing: Basketball can end any day with an awkward landing or unlucky fall, but an education lasts a lifetime. I called the NCAA hotline three times over the next several weeks to make sure I was eligible to use the Grad Student Transfer Exception. Each time I was informed that I met the criteria, and I would be allowed to use it.

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."

Over the next couple weeks things seemingly settled down with the folks at St. Joe's, and I was given a "permission to speak form" form. I contacted more than 20 schools. One of these was The University of Alabama Birmingham. I found online that the school offered a Public Administration program. I want to get into real estate development, so my focus in my degree is Public Administration with a focus in Community Development. In fact, my internship had touched on that exact area of study. It seemed like it could be a good fit, so I sent a "permission to speak form" their way.

The next day I was contacted by UAB associate head coach Donnie Marsh. Coach Marsh played his college ball in Lancaster County at Franklin and Marshall University. We hit it off right away, and he suggested I fly to Birmingham to take a visit. I did, and I immediately knew it was the place I wanted to be. I moved to Alabama in mid-August and our team began preseason workouts and classes shortly after I arrived. Having never lived so far from home, it was a difficult adjustment at first. But I felt very comfortable with the coaches and began building great friendships with my teammates.

The administrators at UAB had experience with players joining as grad school exceptions in the past, so they were familiar with the process. To our surprise though, when Saint Joseph's turned in the requested paperwork to the NCAA about my transfer, school officials had selected "Yes" to the the question "Do you object to Todd O'Brien being eligible for competition this season?" Under the part that said "If yes, then why do you object" there was no reason.

Confused, UAB contacted Saint Joseph's to ask why they had done this. Turns out, Coach Martelli was adamant to the athletic director that I should not be allowed to play because I had "wronged him." A few days later, St. Joe's submitted a letter saying my move to UAB was "more athletic then academically motivated." For them to say it was not academic is foolish; I did an internship in the exact area of study, and Saint Joseph's did not offer any grad degree programs pertaining to that field.

Over the next few weeks there were numerous phone conversations between Coach Martelli, Don DiJulia, my parents and UAB administrators trying to understand why SJU's administration so strongly opposed to me playing at UAB. It was frustrating to realize that a coach whom you had worked so hard for day in and day out in practice and the weight room over the past three years would treat you like a piece of property that he owned and controlled. What's equally as frustrating is that the NCAA allows it.

I continued to focus on preseason workouts at UAB, but in the back of my mind a shred of doubt crept in. What if I don't get to play my senior year? I had already redshirted before, so there were no more seasons for me to sit and do a year in residence. It was either play this year or be done. I tried to ignore these thoughts, and I had faith that the NCAA wouldn't allow one man's grudge to take my season away from me. After all, their mission is to help out STUDENT athletes.

I appealed the NCAA's decision, and I hired an attorney. Though I hoped that I could get the NCAA to change their decision, I knew that the easiest way to solve the problem would be to work things out with St. Joe's. The NCAA even encouraged me to contact them and sort things out diplomatically. My father contacted Mr. DiJulia and offered to pay for the summer classes which I had taken while still on scholarship at St. Joe's. I kept waiting for a higher power at the school to intervene and do the right thing, yet nobody did. I was disgusted. Where were the Jesuit values?

With no movement on Saint Joseph's end, my faith was left in the hands of a five-member NCAA committee. I pleaded my case, stating how St Joe's was acting in a vindictive manner and how the NCAA must protect its student-athletes. When it was my turn to speak, I talked about how much it would hurt to lose my final season of college basketball, not just for me but for my parents, sisters and all of my relatives who take pride in watching me play. To work so hard for something, waking up at 6 a.m. to run miles on a track, spending countless hours spent in the gym shooting, and to have it all taken away because a head coach felt disrespected that I left in order to further pursue academics? It's just not right.

Later that day the NCAA contacted UAB to inform the school that my waiver had been denied. The rules state that I needed my release from St. Joe's, and I didn't have it. I am the first person to be denied this waiver based on a school's refusal. I was crestfallen. The NCAA has done a lot for me in life -- I've gotten a free education, I've traveled the country playing basketball, and for all of this I am thankful. But in this instance I think they really dropped the ball. To deny a grad student eligibility to play based on the bitter opinion of a coach? You can't be afraid to set precedent if it means doing the right thing.

My lawyer continues to plead to St Joe's to release me, but the school no longer will discuss the issue. When my parents try to contact Coach Martelli, Don Dijulia, or President Smithson, they hide behind their legal counsel. When we try to contact the legal counsel, they hide behind the NCAA. A simple e-mail from any one of them saying they no longer object to me playing would have me suited up in uniform tomorrow, yet they refuse.

So here I am, several states away from home, practicing with the team every day, working hard on the court, in the weight room and in the classroom. I keep the faith that one day (soon, I hope) somebody from St. Joe's will step up and do the right thing, so if that day comes I'll be ready. I just finished my first semester of grad classes, and I enjoy it a lot. When somebody asked if I would be leaving to try to play overseas now that I've been denied the ability to play here, I said no. I said it before and I'm sticking to it -- I'm here to get a graduate degree.

Whenever I get frustrated about the situation, I think back to something my mother told me on the phone one day. "This isn't the end of basketball. Basketball ends when you want it to, whether that's next year, in five years, or in 50 years. You control your relationship with the game, and nobody, not St. Joe's, not the NCAA, can take that away from you."

But right now, they sure are trying to.

Statement from Saint Joseph's:

"As to Mr. O'Brien's comments on the University's failure to grant him a waiver, the University does not discuss matters relating to current or former student-athletes consistent with our policy and commitment to student privacy issues. It is our understanding that the NCAA has denied Mr. O'Brien's appeal. Although the University was not a party to the NCAA appeal process and has not been informed of the reasons for the NCAA decision in this matter, the outcome of the appeal appears to have resolved all outstanding issues related to the appeal."

Read more: http://sportsillustrated.cnn.com/2011/basketball/ncaa/12/19/todd.obrien/index.html#ixzz1h6HHHduy


mikeyvthedon
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Was going to post this yesterday

But, waited to talk about in today in NCAA Daily. Thanks for the thunder theft McGrinchley.

Oh, and this is an awesome article. Not for Phil Martelli, or St. Joseph's, or the NCAA, but for people that are genuinely appalled by their actions (or inaction).

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My bad MVD but hey feel free

My bad MVD but hey feel free to "borrow" my "New Jersey Institute of Technology: A program that will one day be on the rise....maybe"

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NJIT one day on the rise

NJIT one day on the rise lol... I feel bad for that kid though, and I liked Martelli much more before reading that article..

side note: i know a couple kids who played for NJIT when it first became a DI school.. If Rutgers sucks every yr (which they should'nt being in such a b-ball hotbed, i cant say i see NJIT being good in my lifetime.)

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wow thats a low move for st

wow thats a low move for st joes, and the ncaa just goes to show once again that sports is more important then education or someone's well being smh

sidenote- Rutgers will be decent in a few years, mike rice is a really good recruiter and a good coach, the problem is that this year their top recurit kadeem jack is injured, and they have i think5 freshman, 2 sophmores, 1 junior and maybe 1 senior(who doesn't play). They are extremely young but have promise for the future, especially if they can land a big recurit(they would have had rosario but Coach hill had to F@ck that up)

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also apparently just read

also apparently just read that The Todd Obrien threatens to sue st. joes over the matter

www.usatoday.com/sports/college/mensbasketball/story/2011-12-19/todd-obrien-st-joes/52110596/1

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Rosario going to UF was an

Rosario going to UF was an enormous blow for the program.. In the past they have had some players.. Douby, anthony farmar (st augustine hs), ndjaye(spelling).... Im just saying being from NJ myself the state has some awesome programs, and talent just goes elsewhere...Rutgers is a huge school, with multiple campuses up at new brunswick and it should just produce more point blank..ive been to many big schools as im sure we all have, but the atmosphere of college ave at rutgers, and the bigtime area its in, they really need to step it up.

St anthonys, st pats, patterson catholic (if still open), st benedict, shawnee, Atlantic city, St augustine prep, CBA, lakewood, holy spirit, pleasantville, new egypt, seton hall prep, st joes of metuchen, atlantic christian... I can go on for days and name many more as well.. Why are these players all going out of state, where others schools can keep people in state.

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I couldn't agree more

I couldn't agree more hopefully mike rice can start nabbing some of those players Myles Mack is looking pretty good this season and Eli carter has been decent. Dane miller has to be the most frustrating player on the team he's supposed to be the leader but instead he avg the same numbers over the past3seasons and leaves much to be desired

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I'm actually on Martelli's

I'm actually on Martelli's side with this one. Martelli is the reason he was even a D-1 athelete in the first place and he's a great teaching coach. I'd hate to see a player I coached up for 2 years leave and play for someone else just cause he wants to start. St. Joes has had a lot of trouble getting recruits to play for a small catholic college in the middle of Philadelphia so he is relagated to tryna find diamonds in the rough and coaching them up. And he's does that St. Joes just beat #17 Creighton and just spanked Nova and are now 8-3 and having are a tournamemt caliber year.

Bottom Line is O'Brien quite on the program and Martelli is tired of rewarding quiters.

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See, I think O'Brien

See, I think O'Brien fulfilled his obligation to Martelli. He gave him 3 years, sat out to transfer and earned his degree. The guy played 7 minutes per game last season. That is barely a significant role. It's not like your starter last year got beat out and wants to transfer because of it. Martelli is being a child, in my opinion. Isn't part of the role of a college coach trying to do what is right for the student? Even if Martelli thinks St. Joes is the best place for O'Brien, you can't say that being stubborn and not letting him play his final season of college basketball for another team is somehow in O'Brien's best intrest.

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Yeah O'brien made a

Yeah O'brien made a commitment to the school and the basketball team then he gets his degree and then what tries to bounce? That ain't cool and that scholarship he waited to sign could of went to somebody else had he told them about it earlier instead of waiting. Selfish moves by O'Brien.

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Isn't that what most student

Isn't that what most student athletes that don't go pro do? Get their degree and go on with their lives? Do you have a problem with players going professional early then? They make the same commitments, and a lot of the time stay less than 3 years. Where do you draw the line?

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He did not know the rule existed

Plus, had someone transferred during the season, it would be the same difference. Phil Martelli has never had someone transfer as a freshman, sophomore or junior? Plus, Martelli could give his ONE YEAR SCHOLLIE (Yes, it is by the year, which is why it said he "waited to sign his papers", if you read the article) to a walk-on. Yeah, but he is selfish for trying to get his graduate degree at another university and use a rule that many others take advantage of as well.

But, I am sure that if a grad student wanted to go to St. Joseph's for his senior year to take a graduate program that they offer, Phil Martelli would say, "No, I don't take quitters". Come on, man. You are welcome to your opinion, but it seems like you do not have all of the facts with what you have been stating. This is hypocritical of a coach that probably preaches about how important education is and how much he cares about his players. Also hypocritical of an organization that preaches the same thing in the NCAA.

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Really dude?

I can understand if you liked Phil Martelli as a coach, he has been pretty awesome during his tenure at St. Joseph's. But, how can you side with him on this one? How is this guy quitting on his team by taking advantage of a rule that tons of teams use and actually gives a student athlete a chance to get a degree outside of their institution, something many people tend to do? He was the first one EVER denied? Were all of the other grad transfers quitters too?

Dude, the stuff you are saying just makes it sound like you did not read the article, or comprehend it. Phil Martelli was definitely not the reason he was a D1 athlete to begin with, as he started off at Bucknell. Tons of players leave institutions for pure basketball reasons, you can call them quitters if you want to, but it is part of college basketball, or any other sport in college athletics where this happens.

I think Phil Martelli sounds like he is not doing this as a message to stop "rewarding quitters". I think he is doing this out of pure spite because he expected ulterior motives. Of course basketball is part of this, but academics are as well. The guy wants a degree and he wanted an opportunity to PLAY basketball somewhere else. Why should he be called a quitter for a coach who was not utilizing him, not to mention obviously does not give a f#ck about his best interests.

Even if you think he "quit(e) on the program", he is staying in grad school and getting his grad degree. Phil Martelli quit just as much as he did by the way he acted and by his actions right now. If someone does not want to be at your school, even if you feel it is not in his best interest, you let him walk. You don't prevent him from playing. That definitely sends the wrong message to me. He coached him for 3 years by the way, but this is a 7 footer who obviously COULD play somewhere else. Why should Martelli cares if he wants to play somewhere else while getting a new degree? It just makes the NCAA look like a scam and coaches look like puppet masters rather than leaders or role models.

Mr. 19134
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You gotta pick up Martelli's

You gotta pick up Martelli's book, Dont Call Me A Coach: A Lesson Plan In Life, he's a very honest a good hearted guy. O'Brien transfered to St. Joe's after going to Bucknell for free as a redshirt freshman, and is/was going to UAB for free after registering for post grad courses before he even told St. Joe's he would be leaving their program. And all this would be fine and dandy is O'Brien didn't get caught stealing laptops as a JR. at St. Joe's with then play Pat Swilling which should of gotten him kicked out of school only Martelli saved his @$$. Some personal pact must of been made when that happend that got Martelli acting like this.

Either way you guys are extremely gullible to hear one side of a story and run with that and paint the other guy bad despite his trackrecord saying completely the opposite. The media can pretty much make anybody look bad if it wants. And it was the NCAA that denied his recent appeal not Martelli.

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It's not that I'm gullible

It's not that I'm gullible and believe everything I hear.

Even if Martelli has grounds to be mad at him, doesn't mean what he's doing isn't childish. I understand you like Martelli, and maybe O'Brien is a real jack@ss in person, but that is still a very spitefull thing to do. You gotta pick your battles and this one just doesn't seem worth it.

Is not letting O'Brien, a benchwarmer on your team, go play one year for another team as a grad student, worth the potential lawsuit being thrown at your program. Is it worth being put in the minds of the players you are currently recruiting? Or is it just a stubborn old man, wanting to "win" a pointless battle against a 22 year old guy who barely played for his team last year.

There are two sides of every story, but it doesn't take a rocket scientist to connect the dots and see what is happening here.

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Coaches dump players all the

Coaches dump players all the time by not renewing scholarships without even giving it a second thought, but they cry like spoiled children when the players have the power to either go pro or transfer. This story has nothing to do with Martelli being a good coach or not, it has to do with him being a self-centered a-hole.

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He was already a D-1 player

He was already a D-1 player at Bucknell

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I've got some 'choice words'

I've got some 'choice words' for this coach now. This is ridiculous.

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This is insane. The NCAA is a

This is insane. The NCAA is a sham.

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"And all this would be fine

"And all this would be fine and dandy is O'Brien didn't get caught stealing laptops as a JR"

No proof of this at all. Every source says he was investigated in having knowledge of it. No one has said he stole it. Not to mention he was cleared to play while the other guy was dismissed. You must really like this coach because this is wrong and EVERYONE knows it.

"And it was the NCAA that denied his recent appeal not Martelli."

It wouldn't have gone to the NCAA if Martelli would've signed a piece of paper.

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Former Saint Joseph's center

Former Saint Joseph's center and current University of Alabama-Birmingham graduate student and practice player Todd O'Brien wrote an open plea on SI.com on Monday, stating his case for a scholarship release the Hawks refuse to grant.

O'Brien detailed that he has graduated from Saint Joseph's and wanted to use the NCAA's waiver rule to pursue a graduate degree at another institution that offered a program not available at Saint Joe's. O'Brien said he found a degree program in public administration at UAB, arrived in Birmingham in August and has been practicing with the team since October.

But the Hawks wouldn't release him, a condition for the waiver to be granted.

Brennan: Martelli Should Know Better

The transfer rules in college basketball are bad enough when coaches don't abuse them, ESPN.com's Eamonn Brennan writes. Blog

O'Brien's attorney, Donald Jackson, told ESPN.com on Monday night that if Saint Joseph's would grant O'Brien's release then "it could be immediately reopened by the NCAA staff in the morning and he could be eligible in the afternoon. We've already had that conversation with the compliance department at UAB and at the NCAA level."

The waiver has been used for years in both men's basketball and football with only one notable, but brief opposition. Former Northern Illinois coach Ricardo Patton and the university declined to support a waiver for former center Sean Kowal, before ultimately changing course in August 2010.

In a statement responding to O'Brien's story on SI.com, the school said, "Saint Joseph's University followed all applicable NCAA procedures and applied consistent internal practices in declining to support the requested transfer exception. 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."

Saint Joseph's coach Phil Martelli wouldn't respond to numerous attempts to contact him by ESPN.com and Saint Joseph's athletic director Don Dijulia declined comment.

Jackson said the five-person committee that heard the appeal for a waiver request had one of its members excuse himself for a potential conflict of interest. The person on the committee was from Conference USA, in which UAB is a member. Prior to the hearing O'Brien's camp requested a replacement for the excused panel member. However, in a Nov. 15 email to Jackson, the committee said they didn't have an alternate member.

The committee needed a majority vote in order to grant O'Brien's waiver, but a 2-2 vote on the appeal would uphold the initial decision. Jackson said he was never told the final vote total after the hearing was held on Nov. 18.

The Doug Gottlieb Show

UAB C Todd O'Brien talks about not being able to play for the Blazers after transferring from St. Joseph's, Phil Martelli and more.

Jackson, who has challenged the NCAA on a number of cases in the past, told ESPN.com he talked with Martelli about O'Brien and was told by the coach that "Todd was the most disloyal player he has ever coached."

Jackson added, "(St. Joseph's) didn't see him in the future in the program."

UAB coach Mike Davis said he has never talked to Martelli about O'Brien. Davis said he didn't understand fighting the waiver since UAB and Saint Joseph's don't play each other, aren't in the same conference and O'Brien only has this final season of eligibility remaining after starting his career at Bucknell and ending at Saint Joe's.

O'Brien averaged just 1 point and 1.3 rebounds in 7.2 minutes per game last season for a Hawks team that finished 11-22 overall and 4-12 in the Atlantic 10. He was also benched for a game against Xavier and the Philadelphia Daily News reported he was "peripherally involved with a laptop (theft) situation."

Saint Joseph's (8-3) is having a renaissance season with wins over then-No. 17 Creighton and its first win over rival Villanova at Hawk Hill.

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Here’s what we know for

Here’s what we know for certain about Saint Joseph’s coach Phil Martelli:

1. He is charitable. Martelli serves as chair of the national Coaches vs. Cancer council. This is not an honorary title. It involves work and time. In early November, just a couple weeks into Saint Joseph’s preseason practice schedule, he flew to Cincinnati to speak as a guest at a tip-off breakfast for the southwest Ohio chapter.

Phil Martelli has not commented publicly about Todd O'Brien's situation. (AP Photo)

As a member of the committee organizing the event, I was stunned when told he’d be participating. Coaches have so little time to prepare teams for the season, but Martelli spent a chunk of his on an important cause.

2. He is committed. As coach of the last team in college basketball to complete a perfect regular season -- 27-0 in 2003-04 -- Martelli has had plenty of opportunities to cash in and accept a cushier job. At the time Jameer Nelson was leading the Hawks through that glorious season, Alumni Hall was like a big high school gym, only not as nice.

Instead of bolting for a more expansive office elsewhere, Martelli remembered St. Joe’s had been loyal to him and he remained loyal to St. Joe’s. Alumni Fieldhouse now has been transformed into Hagan Arena, and the Hawks are a factor again.

3. He has earned some benefit of the doubt. Through nearly two decades as a head coach, he has earned some benefit of the doubt. And he's not getting any.

Martelli and Saint Joseph’s are being assailed for denying a release for former Hawks center Todd O’Brien, who enrolled at Alabama-Birmingham as a graduate student and wants to use his final season of eligibility playing for the Blazers.

Recommended On The Web

Graduate student transfers are all over college basketball this season. Point guard Sam Maniscalco finished his academic work at Bradley and now is playing for Illinois. Guard Brandon Wood is a double-figure scorer for Michigan State after he graduated from Valparaiso.

So O’Brien’s circumstance is not unusual, except in the fact he is not being permitted to play.

What do we know about O’Brien? He is a 7-foot, 250-pound center from New Holland, Pa., and averaged 1.0 points and 1.3 rebounds in 7.2 minutes per game last season for the Hawks. So this is not St. Joe’s trying to keep a tight grip on a star player. UAB is not on the Hawks’ schedule nor in the Hawks’ league, so it’s not about declining to offer a boost to the competition.

We know what O’Brien wrote for Sports Illustrated: that a friend came up with the idea for him to explore the graduate transfer route, that he thought he should play more at St. Joe’s but understood that the coaches preferred other players, that he was dismayed by SJU’s decision not to release him and by the NCAA’s denial of his appeal (twice) for immediate eligibility.

We don’t know Martelli’s position on this matter because he has not responded to Sporting News' request for a comment, or any media outlet's inquiry.

Related onhttp://st.snimg.com/image/feed/story-sprite.png); text-indent: -9999px; background-position: -279px 0px; background-repeat: no-repeat no-repeat; ">SN

Even if Martelli has good reasons, though, there are times when the PR cost of taking a particular position becomes untenable.

Even as often as they deal with publicity, coaches commonly fail to include this factor in their cost/benefit analysis of a particular course of action. Frequently, coaches choose not to do a cost/benefit analysis at all, instead relying strictly on what they consider to be their principles.

This seems not to be the best possible time to be a coach ignoring the public relations aspects of a public situation.

We have seen how quickly the media can turn on even the most veteran, the most revered coaches. And that such a reversal can include great consequence.

For Martelli and Saint Joseph’s, it’s not a question of doing the “right thing” in regards to O’Brien. They haven’t told us enough about their position for anyone to truly know what the “right thing” is. The smart thing would have been to let O’Brien transfer unfettered to UAB, where the Hawks never again would have encountered him. That’s gone now, though. All that’s left is expedience.

Read more: http://aol.sportingnews.com/ncaa-basketball/story/2011-12-20/phil-martelli-might-be-right-but-hes-not-smart-in-blocking-transfer#ixzz1hBkR6UC6

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So what did you actually

So what did you actually refute? Someone called him disloyal? Who Cares? He wasn't a star and he is already gone, just let him play. His career is done after this year anyway.

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Here is Eamon Brennan's actual opinion

What on Earth is Phil Martelli doing?

The transfer rules in college basketball are bad enough when coaches don't abuse them.

More often than not, when a player wants to transfer — whether that's early in his career, or it's to take advantage of the rule that allows an athlete to play immediately if he transfers to pursue a graduate degree in a field not offered by his current school, or whenever — his coach releases him.

It's unsettling that this needs to happen at all, really, that players don't have anywhere near the same freedom (never mind the money) and personal efficacy their coaches possess. But in most cases, coaches realize that denying a transfer request is (a) the wrong thing to do morally, (b) horrible for recruiting and perception or (c) some combination of the two.

[+] EnlargePhil Martelli
Mitchell Layton/Getty ImagesThe college basketball world awaits coach Phil Martelli's side of the Tom O'Brien story.

Phil Martelli, apparently, is not one of those coaches.

Former Saint Joseph's basketball player Todd O'Brien went public Monday on SI.com with his first-person account of his attempt to transfer from Saint Joe's to UAB this season. O'Brien graduated from the Philadelphia school in the summer and sought a graduate student transfer exception release from the NCAA. O'Brien's plan was to head to UAB, play one more year of basketball at the school and begin his graduate work in UAB's public administration program, a field that O'Brien says aligned with his focus of study and internship work before the transfer.

Naturally, O'Brien had to tell his current coach, Martelli, about the decision. According to his account, that's when things got strange:

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."


When O'Brien finally settled on UAB (which came after his initial decision to transfer), the school was flummoxed when it found that Martelli and Saint Joe's had objected to his eligibility this season on their release form.

Confused, UAB contacted Saint Joseph's to ask why they had done this. Turns out, Coach Martelli was adamant to the athletic director that I should not be allowed to play because I had "wronged him."


So, yeah. O'Brien is stuck in NCAA legal limbo. Martelli still hasn't released him. And for his trouble, he appears in the pages of Sports Illustrated looking petty, vindictive and monstrously out of touch.

Of course, there are two sides to every story. What's Saint Joe's side?

Nothing, actually. The school released a statement Monday, one that hid behind the NCAA's waiver decision and said the school "considers the matter closed." The reaction to this statement was not positive. (SI's Seth Davis called it "pathetic," to name one example.) In the meantime, our Andy Katz spoke with O'Brien's attorney, Donald Jackson, who said that Saint Joe's could reopen the release case and get the NCAA to grant O'Brien's eligibility within hours. Katz attempted to contact Martelli, as did others from ESPN.com. Saint Joe's athletic director Don DiJulia — with whom O'Brien recounted a positive conversation — declined to comment.

There are two sides to every story, unless one side refuses to give it, as Martelli and DiJulia have here. The immediate impulse, then, is to assume their side of the story is suspect. If there isn't some major chunk of information left undiscussed, and if O'Brien's account is accurate, Martelli is merely lashing out. He's making a personal point — and a self-destructive one at that.

Because here's the thing: O'Brien (no disrespect, Todd) is not a great college basketball player. He played 7.2 minutes on an 11-22 team last season. He would not be playing much more for the Hawks this season, especially given the emergence of sophomore forward C.J. Aiken, who has provided solid post work in Saint Joe's 8-3 start to 2011-12. It's not like O'Brien's transfer cost Saint Joe's a chance to be competitive. O'Brien didn't transfer to a school in the same league or the same city. He transferred rather harmlessly and with minimal impact.

In a normal transfer situation, a coach does a quick cost-benefit analysis and realizes that, yes, although he technically can prevent a player from transferring from his program, he should not exercise that ability. For one, it's wrong. Two, it's bad publicity. Three, is the kid that good anyway? Four, it's a headache — if a player doesn't want to be on your team, why would you want him? Why keep a kid against his will? How does that help your team?

So, usually, the coach does the math and quickly says, "Hey, sure, go ahead, transfer. We wish Player X the best of luck in all his endeavors," etc. Maybe he'll append a restriction or two, like saying the player can't transfer to a team within his own league or he can't go play for an in-state rival. Or whatever.

You can have murky philosophical opinions on the transfer rules. I know I do. But in practice, these things usually work out.

Not for O'Brien, not for Martelli, not for Saint Joe's. And it just doesn't make any sense. Why is Martelli preventing a former benchwarmer from going where he wants to go with his final year of college basketball eligibility? He didn't really think it would just go away, did he? That O'Brien would just happily sit on UAB's bench all season without a peep?

If he did, he vastly underestimated O'Brien. If he didn't, he was apparently willing to take the risk that this would become public and that he would get, to use the sports writer parlance, "crushed," which is pretty much exactly what's happened since O'Brien's account was published Monday. With no response, let alone a competing version of events from Martelli or the school, we're left to assume O'Brien's story is true. Martelli, for his part, appears to be hiding.

Why? For what? It's Todd O'Brien! It's a graduate transfer exception! You're 8-3! You just beat Creighton and Villanova! What on Earth are you doing?!

The only explanation, based on what we know, is that the Saint Joe's coach holds the mother of all grudges. Otherwise, your guess is as good as mine. Or, for that matter, Todd O'Brien's.

http://espn.go.com/blog/collegebasketballnation/post/_/id/42525/what-is-phil-martelli-doing

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The laptop incident

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.

http://eye-on-college-basketball.blogs.cbssports.com/mcc/blogs/entry/26283066/33967871

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So, let me get this straight

A coach gives a guy a second chance for stealing, so now the player is in his debt? If that happened, their would be a lot of feel good stories in college sports that aren't. If Martelli knew he stole something and looked the other way, how is that a good lesson? Odds are, he did not do that and that O'Brien probably feels no loyalty out of his dealing with that situation, nor should he. If he stole something, that is on O'Brien, not on his relationship with Phil Martelli or any sense of loyalty.

I agree that Phil Martelli probably has his side of the story and he probably is a relatively good person. I even commented that he has been a great coach for St. Joseph's for a long time. But, this situation was not handled properly. The reasons he gave for not letting O'Brien transfer are weak. If he is the "most disloyal player he has ever coached", than let him go! Don't stop him from playing basketball at another school where you will more than likely have nothing to do with him. He is not teaching anyone a lesson by doing this, he just seems angry and petty. For a coach who has done so many good things, it is hard to understand why he felt this was the right thing to do.

So, I and I think the vast majority of people know Martelli has his reasons and that their is another side. But, if the other side is "he is a quitter" or "he wronged me", than I do not know why you need to have a vendetta rather than just letting that person go their own way. He would not be hearing all of this backlash, that is for sure. He would look like a much better coach in the eyes of many who are handed this situation and decide to let a person they more than likely recruited, worked with and had hopes for continue on with their life somewhere else.

But, I guess we are gullible. Like someone gullible enough to say that Bismack Biyombo dominated Anthony Davis and Michael Kidd-Gilchrist at the Hoop Summit. Seriously, I do not think you are gullible for believing that. But, I think believing in a pact over the lap top incident sending Martelli into a frenzy to right a wrong sounds a little far fetched. The NCAA denied his recent appeal, but Martelli holds all of the power. All that guy had to do was say "goodbye and good riddance". Instead, his "personal crusade against quitters" (what I deemed you meant but what you wrote earlier) seems to have you, Mr. 19134, and very few other believers.

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@MikeyV You and eveybody else

@MikeyV

You and eveybody else are misinterpreting entirely all I'm trying to say. My whole point is that every story has to sides and all I'm trying to do is just throw out some of the extra factors that are in play here. And my main stance in this really is just that I find it inherently inhumane how society is so quick to throw mud on a man that has done so much good over one incident that none of us here know the full facts about. Martelli has more then earned the benefit of the doubt by everyone who knows him atleast. Does this make any sense on the surface? Of course not. Does it look like an old man holding a grudge against a piece of fecal matter? Absolutely.

But in the NBA if you have a player option and you fail to opt out of the contract by the given date to do so then guess what you're obligated to play that finaly year. These rules and dates are put in place so that the team has proper time to adjust their plans without you.

Now with that said if you read, like really read between the lines of what O'Brien said he said that "Thought I still had 3 summer courses to take before I officially earned my degree I was allowed to walk in May." That means that O'Brien didn't even technically graduate in May he was just allowed to walk and why not nobody thought he was going to run off anywhere he was on scholarship to play basketball. Then he went on to say that when his scholarship papers came in May he held on to them rather then sign them. That happens to be around the spring signing period so any players St. Joes would of offered a scholarship too they didn't if they thought Todd would be back.

O'Brien goes on to say that he finished his summer courses in June but after that says he had a conversation with Martelli where coach told him he was going to have him dropped from his summer courses and he would no longer graduate. So either Martelli didn't say that or O'Brien still did meet the required credits for his degree yet.Then a month later O'Brien was in Alabama.

Then this happened. Saint Joseph's University followed all applicable NCAA procedures and applied consistent internal practices in declining to support the requested transfer exception. 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.

Two different NCAA boards reviewed the waiver and did not grant it. Martelli had nothing to do with their decision. Their decision is based off everything we don't know because the school is not gonna leak his personal info all out there.

Players are ineligible to play college basketball all the time for different reasons. I don't think it's fair and I don't like the NCAA and their board of goons one bit but I'm also not going to sit and believe that O'Brien is some saint and that whole puppy dog story he gave SI is true. O'Brien obviously transfered to UAB to get more playing time not to get his public administration degree specifically at that school because in fact St. Joe's is one of the best Post Grad schools in the country. U.S Report and News World just ranked St. Joes the 8th best college in the nation so it doesn't make sense from an academic standpoint to transfer to an inferior school.

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I don't get why it's so hard

I don't get why it's so hard for people to understand that according to the article st joes didnt have his major. That explains choosing an inferior school, just like I wouldn't go to Harvard to get an auto body degree why? Because they dont offer it not so this has nothing to do with school education rankings,plus ISP many different factors come into play why you choose a school not jus quality of education,that's a main factor but not the only one.

Second you say Martelli didn't make the final decision news flash he's the one who refuses to sign the release waiver how is it not his fault. You could make all the excuses in the world for him at the end of the day players do this all the time rather it be before the season mid season or post season this is just another way NCAA abuses their power and controlling the lives of students athletes any way that benefits them

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I do not think people are throwing mud on him

But, it certainly feels like this was a highly preventable situation. I think the NCAA looks even worse than Phil Martelli in this situation. However, saying that they are the ones who did not overturn the situation is ignoring the fact that Phil Martelli is the one who holds all of the control. The NCAA is basically saying, "If Phil Martelli says its ok, you can play". Not, "We agree with Phil Martelli, so you can't play". Martelli and St. Joseph's hold all of the power in this situation. It is the NCAA's fault that they do, but they are putting the onus on Martelli or the school to make the decision. Right or wrong.

In this case, many people find it hard to understand why Martelli made this decision. When you lose a transfer, a lot of the time it is after the signing period. It definitely sucks. But, his team seems to be doing fine and it just seems like a pretty petty move to not allow Todd O'Brien to play basketball in a place that would have incredibly little chance of affecting him.

You claim people are slinging mud on him, but I think he made a decision that he knew could have consequences attached. The reasons given for his not allowing the transfer seem ridiculous to many. Being disloyal is not a good quality, but so is harboring a grudge. Even if he had "wronged" Martelli, why not just be the bigger person and let him go live his life? That is what people are struggling to understand.

It is definitely up to you whether you think Martelli has grounds here, but you should not be shocked that others do not believe he does. Nobody is perfect, but all it takes is one thing like this to happen and peoples opinions can indeed change pretty quickly. You give him the benefit of the doubt and I am sure you are not alone. Still, others are entitled to their opinions on the way he handled this matter.

I have known players that got kicked off the team who are still allowed to finish their courses, hell, even take summer school. No matter what he and this kid had gone through, it is hard for people outside of the situation to understand where you are coming from. But, kids transfer all of the time. Not allowing him to transfer to a competitor in his conference or something to that extent is one thing, though even than I might not agree with a coach being able to decide that. Not allowing him to transfer and play basketball somewhere else seems to make no sense.

Martelli definitely holds the key here, which is why he is taking the backlash. He has done a lot of good things, guessing he will be forgiven and stood up for by many. Nonetheless, I think it is completely fair to expect that despite all of the good things one does, people can disagree with certain things they do. People disagree that Martelli should hold the key to this decision and they disagree with why he made this decision and find it petty and spiteful. He is an awesome guy, but he also is known for a fiery temper, which seems to be on full display here. What you see as his right and as a stand, many people see as a lack of using ones better judgement to not be in a situation where people were even talking about him as being anything other than a good person and basketball coach.

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