|Trency Jackson. (Northwest Florida State)|
The worst part wasn't the way Texas Tech failed to properly advise Trency Jackson academically. Or how the staff used him to the very last minute possible and made it tougher than it needed to be to transfer. Or when he abruptly moved back to Mississippi with no idea what he'd do or where he'd go next. No, the worst part was the press release -- the one that said Jackson had been "suspended for a violation of team rules."
"That was really frustrating because it wasn't true," Jackson told me by phone this week. "They just kept saying I was suspended for a violation of team rules, and that made it sound like I was a bad guy."
But Jackson wasn't a bad guy.
He was an academically ineligible guy.
So why didn't Texas Tech officials just disclose that?
Why weren't they honest about the development up front?
Texas Texas interim coach Chris Walker didn't return messages seeking comment. But perhaps the answer is because, sources told CBSSports.com, that the reason Jackson was ruled ineligible was rooted in an oversight from the school. Beyond that, Texas Tech might've looked bad (or selfish) for playing Jackson as late as Jan. 8 when they'd known since December that he'd be ineligible soon as the spring semester started.
Normal protocol is to inform the player as soon as possible.
Then he has time to weigh his options.
But Texas Tech handled this another way.
The Red Raiders played Jackson on Jan. 8 against Baylor. Then, on the morning of the Jan. 12 game against Kansas, Jackson said Walker informed him that he was academically ineligible and, essentially, no longer needed. So there Jackson was, this junior college transfer who had started 11 games for Texas Tech, stuck trying to find a new school at a time when most schools had already started or were about to start classes.
"They really put me in a tough spot," Jackson said. "I was in a tough position."
Steve Forbes called it a "nightmare."
"Right before the start of the spring semester is not the best time to transfer," said Forbes, who coached Jackson at Northwest Florida State in 2011-12. "The timing was terrible."
What bothers Forbes is that all of this could've and should've been avoided.
It's not like Jackson flunked out of Texas Tech.
Forbes said Jackson actually passed 12 hours in the fall semester and finished with a 2.5 grade point average, which would've kept him eligible under normal circumstances. But Jackson wasn't dealing with normal circumstances. He was, according to Forbes, playing with a special waiver because he didn't have enough transferrable hours Texas Tech was willing to accept in advance of enrolling. Typically, an academic advisor at the future school realizes stuff like this well in advance, then tells the prospective student-athlete what must be done to reconcile the situation. Then it's reconciled.
But Jackson and Forbes both said nobody from Texas Tech indicated there were issues with Jackson's transcript prior to Jackson's arrival in Lubbock, which led to Jackson finding himself in a unique situation. He said he was told he'd need to meet the minimun eligibility standards and make nothing lower than a C in all of his fall classes to remain eligible.
Did Jackson meet the minimum eligibility standards?
But he also made one D.
And that one D is what triggered Jackson's ineligibility.
"It was Texas Tech's fault that he got into this situation because they misevaluated his transcript," Forbes said. "It's not the responsibility of a student-athlete to evaluate his transcript on what transfers and what doesn't. So when they didn't figure that problem out until mid-October, that put him in a bad situation. If they just would've evaluated his transcript right and told him he needed three more hours or six more hours earlier, he would've had plenty of time to get those hours. But Texas Tech messed up."
I asked Jackson when he realized he had made a D.
He said in December.
I then asked why he didn't transfer in December given that it was clear he'd be ineligible.
"Because they just kept playing me like I wasn't going to be ineligible," Jackson said. "I thought something was going to happen. But it didn't. And then I was on my own."
The good news here is that Jackson has landed at Western Kentucky.
He's having to pay his own way.
But he's happy and optimistic about the future.
He'll probably be eligible to play for the Hilltoppers in December.
Either way, Jackson still serves as an example of a student-athlete misguided by adults, used up by adults, spit out by adults and then labeled a violator of team rules when he wasn't really a violator of team rules, perhaps so the adults wouldn't look incompetent and selfish. It's another unflattering Texas Tech story in a year of unflattering Texas Tech stories, and I'm not sure this basketball season in Lubbock can end soon enough.