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 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 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 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  

Sources told 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, 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


Since: Oct 22, 2007
Posted on: December 21, 2011 4:58 pm

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

epiphany, putting words in my mouth is no better than name-calling. In fact, if I have to choose one or the other, I'll take the name-calling.

I never suggested St. Joe's has to tell all of us. They should state the reason in appropriately designated field on the form they had to complete where they stated 'Yes' to the question of whether they object to O'Brien's eligibility. If they don't want to tell everyone else, fine, that is their prerogative. As for the privacy thing, they could give general answers without violating anyone's privacy. It happens all the time. I think they're just hiding behind that and the NCAA.

Then you take a quote from me, delete some of the words, then twist it and here you go with the assumptions again...."To 'use' the system implies a degree of shallowness and personal gain at the expense of the institution." Not unless that's how you want to interpret it and interpetting it that way requires several assumptions and leaps of logic to get there. I'm sorry you don't like the word "use." I don't find it ugly at all, but if you prefer, we can go with "utilize." When I say "work within the system," it means following rules established by that system. O'Brien was apparently informed by the NCAA (3 times?) that he met eligibility requirements. While O'Brien may have made this up, I haven't heard of the NCAA refuting it. And if you're so concerned about following rules, why aren't you concerned that St. Joe's didn't follow the rules and provide a reason on the NCAA form? Why aren't you concerned the NCAA didn't follow their own rules and overrule St. Joe's objection because they didn't provide a reason? Why do rules seem only to apply to student athletes, but never to the NCAA or their member institutions???? Sometimes it appears the NCAA makes it up as they go.

I've already acknowledged that O'Brien probably isn't telling the whole truth. Neither is Martelli. At the end of all this, the points you make and the points I make (as well as the things you say I said) are all irrelevant to my main point anyway.....St. Joe's has nothing to gain by doing this and Martelli looks bad. You can say he doesn't, but the proof is in the lack of support he has from the public and media. Right or wrong, that's the reality.

And that's it for me on this topic......I've spent way too much time on a team, school, coach and player I don't care about and, furthermore, I don't waste my time with people who can't make their own argument without insulting and denigrating someone else and twisting what they say.


Since: Dec 20, 2011
Posted on: December 21, 2011 3:52 pm

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

Bizona: "Institutional policy and federal student records law prohibit Saint Joseph's from releasing additional or confidential information."  This is the reason the school does not disseminate the information.  O'Brien tried to have his cake and eat it too.  It did not work out for him.  O’Brien knew all along he was going to transfer.  This might have been avoided if he simply let the coach know prior to graduation and asked for a release, then incurred the cost of his education.  We all have to acknowledge that O’Brien was disingenuous.  This problem started because one young man was calculating.  And, by the way, I don’t agree, in your words, that a person has “to use whatever system they work within to their advantage? If they don't, they're probably not going very far.”
If it means being dishonest, I disagree.  Plenty of people work within the system, reaping what they sow.  To “use” the system implies a degree of shallowness and personal gain at the expense of the institution.  Such an ugly word, “use.”   You are right to assume that O’Brien tried to “use… the system” to his advantage and did so without considering the consequences.  It didn’t work out for him.  Now he’s crying foul.  You reap what you sow. 
Martelli doesn’t strike me as the vindictive type.  I suppose it is possible.  I just don’t see it.  I really believe he considers this an important ethical course for his program and college sports.  Sometimes, it is hard to employ ethical standards while others try to “use whatever system…to their advantage.”      

P.S. Happy Holidays!

Since: Dec 7, 2008
Posted on: December 21, 2011 1:35 pm

Guess what he can't play for St. Joes

As it stands, he can't play for St. Joes. No matter what St. Joes does he's not playing for them. So to keep him from playing for someone else is just punishment. Why does St. Joes get to make the decision? He graduated, enrolled in another school and still wants to play. Let him do it. Martelli definitely deserves whatever harm his reputation and hit to recruiting takes at St. Joes.

Since: Oct 22, 2007
Posted on: December 21, 2011 12:10 pm

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

epiphany, first, if we can avoid the name-calling and making assumptions about each other in the future, just make our points without getting personal and then just agree to disagree, this might go better for us both.

Now, I agree with you that he doesn't need to play basketball to pursue his studies. The post you are responding to was a response specifically to your suggestion that a player shouldn't transfer to another school, even if the school they are transferring from doesn't have the course of study they are pursuing. So yeah, he can pursue his studies still and I wasn't arguing otherwise. But I still have to wonder what St. Joe's and Martelli can gain from this. I see an older man (Martelli) basically preventing a 22 year old kid from doing what he loves out of nothing more than spite. If there is more to it, then why wasn't that indicated on the form where they objected to O'Brien's eligibility? And without a reason, then on what grounds did the NCAA refuse O'Brien's appeals? As for O'Brien "using the system," I'm honestly not sure what your point is there...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. So, if whatever O'Brien did is that bad, then it should at least appear on the form to explain why they object to O'Brien's eligibility. If it doesn't, then the NCAA has no business upholding his non-eligibility.

Regardless of who is right, nobody is winning as the situation currently stands....everyone - O'Brien, Martelli, St. Joe's and the NCAA - is losing. Again, I don't really care about any of the parties involved. I'm just giving my opinion. As for the agreements you allude to, O'Brien played his remaining under-graduate years there and graduated. Seems by NCAA rules, he fulfilled his commitment to St. Joe's. I do believe in living up to one's word......however, when someone starts behaving in a petty and spiteful manner, as Martelli seems to be, things do get more complicated in regards to those agreements. But again, from what I can see, O'Brien did fulfill his commitment. He wasn't even in the team's future plans, which makes St'Joe's stance even more inexplicable.

Finally, going back to the personal nature of much of your post, in case I need to make this distinction for people who don't get it, I didn't call you "insane," "short-sighted" or "narrow-minded." Those were all in specific reference to your argument in that particular post and there is a distinction. I don't know you and I have no idea if any of those adjectives apply to you personally and I would guess not because, while I may not agree with your all your points, it's obvious you put thought into them. However, your argument against transferring to another school, in my opinion, is all of those things. While you may think I'm stupid because I disagree with you, I'm actually not stupid.....but that doesn't mean I haven't done or said some stupid things in my time. I learned a long time ago that just because I disagreed with someone's opinion on something didn't necessarily mean one of us was smarter than the other.

Since: Apr 26, 2008
Posted on: December 21, 2011 11:47 am

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

Who cares?  If he is not good at basketball, why is St. Joe's being petty? 

North Carolina State allowed R. Wilson to go to Wisconsin.  It's called class.

Martelli doesn't have it.  He is going to win the battle, but lose the war. 

Since: Dec 20, 2011
Posted on: December 21, 2011 11:10 am

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

This was a pre-meditated act on o'brien's part driven mainly by athletics. Sure,in order for the transfer to be valid o'brien must take after graduate studies at the institution he chose. O'brien was a bench warmer last year on a bad team and knew he would be in for more of the same if he continued playing at st.joes for his final year. There is much more superior depth that play the same position as o'brien at st joes and no one graduated last year. This is more about o'brien making terrible decisions and his lack of skill. UAB is his third school in five years. why? He's really not as good of a player as he thinks. This eligibilty clause sets a bad precedent and needs fixing. It enables in this situation o'brien to use his scholarship funds to graduate from st.joes with every intention of leaving the school after earning his under graduate degree for his last year of playing eligibilty.If i had to guess, a big reason why Martelli and st.joes wont authorize the release is because the school committed to o'brien financially and athletically. His abrupt decision in july to not return for his last season hosed st.joes of another player they could have recruited and committed to financially last winter after the season ended. Hopefully,st joes does not in cave in the midst of all the scrutiny. The moral is work harder in practice if you suck! Dont look for NCAA, st josephs and the media whores for a bailout. This eligibilty clause needs to be abolished. In this unique situation no one player is superior than the institution

Since: Dec 20, 2011
Posted on: December 21, 2011 10:43 am

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

Hey Bizona, you're right.  Education is more important than sports.  Nothing is stopping O'Brien from pursuing his graduate studies.  He was supposedly a good student at Saint Joseph’s and would probably have no problem getting accepted into UAB.  Unless you believe he has to play sports to get a graduate education?  The two are mutually exclusive.  So your argument is illogical.  O’Brien is attempting to use the system. That is the point. There seems to be a legitimate concern about a much larger problem. A student accepts a scholarship and agrees to play his college career at an institution.  The college system would be fraught with students finishing degrees and transferring to other schools and undermining institutional and player commitment.  If Saint Joseph’s released him as a player or he was injured after one year, they would have had to honor his scholarship.  And it should be that way.  Your argument is quite shallow too.  Two parties are investing in one another, making an agreement. You obviously see agreements as shallow things.  If O’Brien was allowed to transfer, it might lead to a much larger problem for the NCAA.  The NCAA may actually grant O’Brien his release.  Stay tuned. 

 I recommend changing your name to Bonzo.  It has a more fitting ring to it.         

Since: Apr 5, 2009
Posted on: December 21, 2011 10:42 am

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

This will hurt his ability to recruit. Other coaches will use this against him with potential recruits. He can try to explain it to them but it will not work. Kids want a good fit. The kids want someone in charge that will be fair.
Some people don't realize that schools can and do pull scholarships and move kids to other schools.  

Since: Oct 22, 2007
Posted on: December 21, 2011 9:39 am

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

Should Patton Manning have left Tennessee and gone to USC because it offered a graduate program more suited for his needs?  Of course not.

Uh, yeah, actually....he should. Your argument is just insane argument.

If the school you're at does not offer the graduate course of study you want to pursue, of course you should transfer and whether you're a star or role player doesn't matter. The fact is, sports only last for so long. What people study is what will stay with them for the rest of their lives. If college is about academics first and sports are supposed to take a back seat to studies (hey, that's what parents always tell their kids, right?), then your "of course not" here seems ridiculously short-sighted and narrow-minded.

Since: Aug 30, 2006
Posted on: December 21, 2011 12:14 am

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

Contrast O'Brien and Martelli vs. Crist and Kelly.

It's obvious that not doing the release benefits nobody.

Martelli needs to cool his Italian off and sign the release and move on.

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