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: Jan 27, 2007
Posted on: December 20, 2011 2:26 pm

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

If that player went high in the draft, the coach would use it as a selling tool.  And, it would be valid.

Since: Nov 15, 2007
Posted on: December 20, 2011 2:24 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?

Since: Jan 27, 2007
Posted on: December 20, 2011 2:09 pm

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

Let this be a warning to future recruits....if something happens at St. Joe's and Coach Clown gets upset with you....he won't allow you to play someplace else.  Net sum of it all....don't commit to St. Joe's!  Go play somewhere else.

Since: Jun 5, 2011
Posted on: December 20, 2011 2:02 pm

What a joke

I hope this article is mandatory reading for everyone recruited for St Joseph's from now on.  This is one of the most difficult to understand decisions I have ever seen in sports.  Martelli is like the ex-girlfriend who doesn't want you but doesn't want anyone else to have you, either.  
Martelli needs to sign a release for O'Brien now or be fired.  He is not doing anything for the student athlete, which is supposed to be the cornerstone of NCAA sports.  He is consciously working against everything the NCAA supposedly represents.   He is damaging a student-athlete who deserves better.  He is damaging the repuation of the school that signs his paycheck.  Most of all, he is damaging the supposed mission of NCAA sports.  
Maybe he is feeling the heat from his performance as of late.  He hasn't gotten his school into the NCAA Tournament since 2008.  Martelli should pay more attention to the job he is doing and less attention to bleeping over ex-players.

Since: Jan 2, 2011
Posted on: December 20, 2011 1:38 pm

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

This is just Petty crap...............make Martelli look like a dick

Since: Jan 26, 2007
Posted on: December 20, 2011 1:34 pm

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

Martelli's a jerk............who doesn't know that by now?  Every single time I've seen him interviewed on TV, he says something that solidifies his reputation as an a**hole.

Since: Sep 25, 2007
Posted on: December 20, 2011 1:27 pm

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

Who cares how many schools this kid has gone to in 4 years, he graduated in 3 years with his undergrad degree and is now doing what most other students do for their Masters Degree, they go to a different school.  Shame on the University for not allowing a student who fulfills his undergrad obligations, in a manner that any University would be proud, the opportunity to play his final year of eligibility at the school where he is seeking his Graduate Degree. 

It seems to me that, aside form an issue with a laptop, which was handled when disciplinary
action was both taken and enforced, there is no reason for the University to hang on to a student who no longer fits into their plans.  Would the University do the same if someone needed to transfer due to a family member's health concerns?  I certainly would never sign a letter of intent to St Joe's knowing that they have a coach who, to outsiders (who may not know there is more to this story than what's being told), holds a grudge, and where an interim President lacks the authority and the nobility to do the right thing which is to go against the grain and let the kid play ball.  He's earned this chance by being a student first and graduating.

Since: Aug 16, 2006
Posted on: December 20, 2011 1:27 pm

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

The only harm here is that St. Joe's is proving to other kids that they aren't very "user" friendly.  Just let the kid go.  So what if he has transferred before.  You aren't going to play him!  The kid has a degree and just wants one last year of basketball at a school that wants him.  So many kids don't go to class and expect the world.  At least he has a degree an is in a masters program.  Whether he follows through or not, just let him go and save face for you and your program Mr. Martelli!

Since: Nov 25, 2010
Posted on: December 20, 2011 1:23 pm

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

Martelli is just a vindictive little sh**. Too bad jerks like him have such authority.

Since: Sep 26, 2011
Posted on: December 20, 2011 1:13 pm

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

   ...let's see: role in stolen laptop-punished, sat 4 games , reinstated 100%....check

;     &nbs
p;     &nb
sp;  graduated in 4 years from institution w/ a year of eligibility remaining-check
;     &nbs
p;     &nb
sp;   [4 years and graduates...that alone is an accomplishment for a jock]

;     &nbs
p;     &nb
sp;  seeks advanced academic degree not offered at st.joe's-check

...sounds like st.joe's has circled up around their coach who is well paid for his loyalty...    and so what if he took 3 first summer session classes paid for by the school, then announced his transfer plans... all that was perfectly within his rights to do and signed off on by the administration... he was hardly disloyal, oppurtunistic, yes.

;    Bush League behaviour from St.Joe's...and look at the press they've gotten for being petty w/ a bench player who's just moving on w/ his life after a disappointing experience with a small, insular Catholic school that plays in the local shadows of Villanova and LaSalle... Martelli needs to get over himself  and sign off on this kid.

   It means nothing if he does so, smells real bad if he doesn' recruits be warned!   

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