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: Dec 20, 2011
Posted on: December 20, 2011 4:32 pm

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

Sure, the dad offered to pay for courses after the fact.  Like I said earlier, O'Brien was decpetive.  He tried to exploid the situation for personal and financial gain. Life is easier when you act responsibly the first time.

Since: Jan 27, 2007
Posted on: December 20, 2011 4:27 pm

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

Why would he return if he had graduated and if Phil Martelli told him he no longer fit into the team's plans?  O'Brien ought to transfer to UAB and begin his postgraduate degree. Martelli doesn't look like the victim here; he looks like a hardass without reason.  I hope future recruits take note of Martelli's vindictiveness.

Since: Aug 18, 2008
Posted on: December 20, 2011 3:58 pm

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

The father offered to pay for the summer school classes if that was the issue preventing the release. There is no reason this kid should not be released. He has graduated and fulfilled his obligations.

Since: Dec 20, 2011
Posted on: December 20, 2011 3:50 pm

Todd O'Brien is no deer in the head-lights!

O'Brien presents himself is a victim of a vindictive coach, but he takes little, if any responsibility, for his deception.  And deception is the right word here. O'Brien completed three classes during the summer so that he could graduate.  Good for him!  But this led everyone to believe O'Brien intended to return and play for Saint Joseph's. It seems as though O'Brien manipulated the system for personal and financial gain, a part of the argument that needs exploring.  Saint Joseph's bore the cost of his expenses.  The university allowed him to walk with fellow graduates in May, knowing he needed to complete three courses over the summer.  Courses paid for by Saint Joseph's.  Why would they do this?  Because they expected O'Brien to honor his contract.  The university kept up its part of the contract and funded his education.  If O’Brien was uncertain of his future plans, he could have easily told the coach he was done playing at Saint Joseph's, assumed the cost of his summer classes, and then transferred to UAB to pursue a graduate program and play basketball.  It would have certainly made his appeal more valid and shown a greater sense of integrity and ethical responsibility. O'Brien had a host of options, even playing at Saint Joseph's and continuing graduate courses. Martelli is actually holding O'Brien accountable for a commitment and avoiding potential future problems.  O'Brien is no deer caught in the head-lights.  He brought this upon himself.  I have little doubt O'Brien was discontent and a bit dishonest. 

Since: Dec 20, 2011
Posted on: December 20, 2011 3:31 pm

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

Phil had no issue letting Delonte west or Dwayne Jones leave early. 

Since: Oct 24, 2008
Posted on: December 20, 2011 3:27 pm

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

You are correct!  Private schools have much greater authority than the government.  I wonder how much government aid goes to St. Joe's...or is it how much St. Joe's aids the government. Laughing

It seems to me that the only reason this is news is because the Martelli Mafia is making it news.

Since: Dec 20, 2011
Posted on: December 20, 2011 3:19 pm

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

This is a total joke.  There is so much more to this story that O'Brien fails to mention.  The inaccuracies or neglected information (which I'm sure was provided by O'Brien) in this article makes it laughable.  O'Brien didn't get his way and now wants to take it out on whomever he can.  He knows Martelli and SJU can't make an informaiton public, so he knows the only side of the story they will get is his -- and he is taking advantage of this fact by, for lack of a better word, lying about the situation. 

Since: Oct 22, 2007
Posted on: December 20, 2011 3:06 pm

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

This is just Petty crap

Tell that to a basketball player who is forced to miss his last year of eligibility for college ball. Considering he's not going to get drafted, it's probably his last year of organized basketball.

Since: Sep 10, 2007
Posted on: December 20, 2011 3:03 pm

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

Tood O'Brien wrote a great letter about this and his perspective to Sports Illustrated.   Phil Martelli has not give a letter of rebuttal, nor has Saint Joseph. After reading it, I would advise people not to let their sons play basketball for Phil Martelli or St. Joes Basketball.  I am stunned by the St. Joes culture.

Since: May 17, 2008
Posted on: December 20, 2011 2:49 pm

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

I would love to see a top recruit sign there, play one year, and declare for the draft.  What would this jerk of a coach do then?

Nothing.  A college coach can not do anything about a player declaring for the draft. 

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