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 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. 

Photo: Getty Images


Comments

Since: Dec 20, 2011
Posted on: December 20, 2011 11:38 pm
 

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

I find myself more intrigued with this issue. Imagine if Andrew Luck, who graduated, decided to leave Stanford and play for LSU because it offered a graduate program more appealing to him. This is a problem.  It doesn't matter whether the player is a superstar or a bench player.  Students transfer from schools all the time, and for a host of reasons.  It sounds to me like there is a bit more at stake here.  My guess is that Martelli is trying to set a policy and actually protect his program and the university.  Imagine if students take a redshirt year, attend classes, then play for three years and graduate on time.  This leaves one year of eligibility.  And lets face it.  A senior player, bench player or not, has more maturity than a younger player.  Patton manning took graduate courses during his final season at Tennessee. Should Patton Manning have left Tennessee and gone to USC because it offered a graduate program more suited for his needs?  Of course not. 

Saint Joseph's has kicked it up to the NCAA.  The NCAA may grant O'Brien his release and overrule Martelli.  Still, Martelli has done something smart.  He has established a precedent.  I'm still leaning toward the notion that O'Brien is taking advantage of the situation.  Bye the way, is O'Brien getting a full graduate ride at UAB?  Just curious what financial interest is at stake for him.     




Since: Sep 25, 2007
Posted on: December 20, 2011 11:38 pm
 

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

I have tried to read as much of this story as I could find and I have come to this conclusion - regardless of the 'reasons' that may or may not be there from the Coaches perspective, not signing the release seems wrong.  He has graduated, he has enrolled in a different school and wants to play out his last year of eligibility.  There is no legitimate rationale where the coach or AD do not think back on this years from now and regret how 'small' they were thinking.  It is time for someone in the School Administration to step in and stop the pettyness.



Since: Aug 25, 2009
Posted on: December 20, 2011 11:19 pm
 

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

Is this Coach Martelli?  



Since: Mar 22, 2011
Posted on: December 20, 2011 11:18 pm
 

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

Phil Martelli has had a distinguished career, and is noted for his integrity. Though I am neither a friend of his, nor a supporter of St. Joseph's, I completely support Martelli's decision, and feel certain he is doing what he believes to be the right thing.



Since: Aug 25, 2009
Posted on: December 20, 2011 11:14 pm
 

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

Todd O'Brien graduated from St. Joe's.  I not sure what classes he would have had to take at St. Joe's to be elgible to play this season.  There is no upside to not letting the kid play at UAB.  O'Brien's playing time was cut and he was not a starter, this is not a loss to St. Joseph's basketball.  St. Josephs and UAB do not play each other except for maybe the tournament NCAA or NIT. The laptop incident by all accounts here and on the SI website was resolved with him being reinstated.  What actual reason is left than other it's a vendetta. Coach Martelli would have been far better off taking the higher road and letting the kid go and use his last year of eligibility to help pursue his masters.  Martelli's actions, while maybe justified in his mind, leaves him looking small and petty. 



Since: Apr 25, 2007
Posted on: December 20, 2011 10:17 pm
 

no good guys

I didn't just join today, I'm not a plant for anyone.
The University comes out looking like jerks (good Catholic school?). They had a player they weren't using & now limit his ability to take his talents elsewhere. The kid looks like a jerk. Bouncing from school to school taking advantage of free-education. I most likely side with the player - NOT that I feel the school doesn't have reasons, but in the end they aren't the 'police' of bad behavior. The school needs to focus on its own goal of building a winning program rather than righteousness & judgmental behavior in limiting a kid who has left (even if the kid has his problems & blame).
hence the title of my post - there are no good guys here.



Since: Dec 20, 2011
Posted on: December 20, 2011 10:14 pm
 

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

bktabooman, like most conspiracy theorists, is frightening.  Bye the way, I live in California.  You know, the state on the other side of the coast. I grew up in Philadelphia and like to follow the Big 5 because it was a part of my childhood. I found the story interesting and wanted to offer a different perspective.  bktabooman, are you a friend of O'Brien's? That is the only reason you are defending him.  See?  Doesn't make much sense to offer up foolish ideas. Instead, engage in the merits of the argument. You still have not explained the reason O'Brien was not more honest with his intentions.  After all, why do we actually want to hold people responsible for their intentions and actions? (That was sarcasm in case you didn't understand.)   But I still love my Philly sports.  If the university were wrong, I would have no problem offering a response that attacked its actions.  It just sounds like O'Brien is trying to parlay his graduate school education as well as his undergraduate education.

 bktabooman.  Please offer something substantive.  I would enjoy hearing it. 

 



Since: Dec 20, 2011
Posted on: December 20, 2011 10:11 pm
 

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

bktabooman, like most onspiracy theorists, is freightening.  Bye the way, I live in California.  You know, the state on the other side of the coast. I grew up in Philadelphia and like to follow the Big 5 because it was a part of my childhood. I found the story interesting and wanted to offer a different perspective.  bktabooman, are you a friend of O'Brien's? That is the only reason you are defending him.  See?  Doesn't make much sense to offer up foolish ideas. Instead, engage in the merits of the arugment. You still have not explained the reason O'Brien was not more honest with his intentions.  After all, why do we actually want to hold people responsible for their inentions and actions? (That was sarcasm in case you didn't understand.)   But I still love my Philly sports.  If the university was wrong, I would have no problem offering a response that attacked its actions.  It just sounds like O'Brien is trying to parlay his graduate school education as well as his undergraduate education.

bktabooman.  Please offer something substantive.  I would enjoy hearing it. 
 

  



Since: Dec 30, 2006
Posted on: December 20, 2011 9:41 pm
 

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

with all the negative publicity St Joes is receiving for this,  let's just hope that prospective recruits stay away from this school!!!!



Since: Nov 7, 2006
Posted on: December 20, 2011 9:12 pm
 

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

My hope is that every perspective St. Joseph's men's basketball player hears about this story -- and the vindictiveness they might face if things don't work out for them there.


The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com