Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Hoops - Sadness Abounds

Wow. In what can only be described as absolutely saddening, disappointing and frustrating news, it was revealed today that hoops senior Theodis Tarver has been ruled academically ineligible, effectively ending his basketball career.

The irony is so thick you can cut it with a knife. Last night Rana Cash had written an outstanding article on Theo, a retrospective of all that Tarver has been through with injury and the death of his mother. The largest irony of all is that our next game is against Centenary, from Theo's hometown, a game put on the schedule specifically for Theo by Coach Hewitt. His family and friends were all going to be there. His dad has been distributing copies of the media guide around town. Now the day of the game, his career is over. The AJC re-wrote the article and this is all that's left of it.

I just don't know what to say. I have many different thoughts. Part of me wants to ask why? The guy is a senior. Was it an academic support issue? How does this happen in someone's senior year? But let's not forget how Clarence Moore was impacted by the death of his mother 3 years ago. He took a year off from hoops before coming back to the team. Devestating family losses and their impact just cannot be judged.

There's another point to be made here that will be tough for many to swallow. Theodis Tarver is still eligible by NCAA standards. The problem is that he's no longer eligible by Georgia Tech standards. So those who don't understand our ability in various sports to compete at a higher level and attract better athletes, don't forget this fact. It's harder to make it at GT than most other schools. No arrogance, just truth.

There are still some unanswered questions.

1. Is Theo only ruled ineligible to play hoops? Can he continue his work to finish his degree? We all hope so, since this is the most important fact of all. He must have been on academic probation already because I thought that's they way the system worked.

2. How is it that this was announced the day of the Centenary game? That is a monumental coincidence. Monumental! Grades for the fall semester were evidently due into the system sometime around December 19. Why was it announced January 10? Evidently today is the first day of classes for the new semester. Is this why? After all, does anyone remember Can Gailey's quote prior to the Emerald Bowl stating that ALL his players had been ruled eligible to play? That was 3 weeks ago. He knew, so what's with the lag here? Could it be this from the Student Rules and Regulations:

XVII. Extracurricular Activities
A. ParticipationIn order to be eligible for participation in extracurricular activities, a student must satisfy the following requirements:
a) be enrolled in a degree program
b) maintain a schedule with at least six credit hours on a credit basis or
be a student in the Division of Professional Practice on work term.
c) not be on academic probation
Changes in academic standing that affect eligibility become effective when determined by the Institute at the end of each term (normally the Tuesday
following final examination week), except that a student whose academic standing changes from good to probation shall remain eligible through the day preceding the first day of instruction of the following academic term.

Was the wait because the case had been submitted to an academic oversight committee or something? Also, I wonder if the team knew about this during the holidays?

3. If they knew he was going to be ruled ineligible December 19, it seems possible that they could have held him out of any future games and he still would have met the criteria to redshirt and play next season. Why didn't this happen? Was this a possibility?

4. How will this ultimately impact Georgia Techs Academic Progress Rate? If Theo finishes his degree then it should be fine, but we're not sure he's able to do that.

5. Is there any further appeal process that could get him reinstated later in the season or is it 100% over? I think he's done, but I'm not 100% certain.

My last comment is that academic responsibility ultimately falls on the student-athlete. I barely made it through Tech as a student and I can't imagine what it's like as a SA. Yeah, they have access to a great support system as athletes, but they have to be incredibly more disciplined about their schedules, routines and habits compared to regular students. You may not like that statement, but it's true. Try traveling to Vegas or Utah or Miami or BC or Virginia, etc, etc, then practicing in all the non-game days and trying to keep up an academic load. I don't envy what they have to accomplish.

Theo is ultimately the fall-guy here. Not "the hill". Not the coaches. Not the school standards. Not the academic support staff. Make no mistake - this situation did not creep up on anybody. Although we'll never know the facts, "they knew". This was no surprise.

My only comment on humanity is this - Theo never caused a problem in his career. He stayed eligible and worked hard for at least 3 years. Now he is having a hard time dealing with the death of his mother. Should the school make some type of exception since he still meets NCAA standards? Personally, I think ANY student in this type of situation should be given a 2nd look. This is not about lowering the standards at Georgia Tech, but about being human and looking at a young man for his entire body of work. On that I would certainly give him a 2nd chance.

There is sadness about Theo not playing in his hometown tonight. Even worse, can you imagine senior day - now with nobody to salute and tell thank you. Maybe they'll do it anyway. Hopefully Theo will be able to continue and get his degree. After all, that is why the school exists - for academics. Best to you Theo. We all wish your career had taken a different path, but things happen for a purpose and someday hopefully that purpose will be revealed to you. Keep the faith my friend.

PossePartner over at the Hive published this version of the media guide that Theo's father might have been passing around: