Virginia has dismissed former Memphis standout Austin Nichols from its men's basketball program, Cavaliers coach Tony Bennett announced Friday night.
"It's a privilege to be a part of this program, and Austin has lost that privilege," Bennett said. "We have standards for our student-athletes, and when those standards aren't met there are consequences. ... This is the unfortunate consequence."
Nichols was suspended for a "violation of team rules" for Virginia's two exhibitions and season opener. But the 6-foot-9 forward played in Tuesday's win over Saint Francis and scored 11 points in six minutes.
Virginia's next game is Sunday against Yale.
Nichols started his career at Memphis, where he averaged 13.3 points, 6.1 rebounds and 3.4 blocks as a sophomore. But he left after two years at his hometown school, enrolled at Virginia and sat out last season per normal NCAA transfer rules. He was expected to be a big part of, and perhaps the best player on, a Virginia team that's currently ranked No. 8 in the CBS Sports Top 25 (and one).
"As a coach, you don't want to do hard things unless you think it's the right thing for your team and for a young man involved," Bennett said following Sunday's 62-38 win over Yale, according to the Associated Press. "It's just one of those situations. We always talk about there's a standard we have. Certainly showing compassion and grace, but there's also accountability and truth that comes with every situation, and with this case, that's how we dealt with it with Austin. ... I love Austin. My hope is that this will be a turning point for him and he'll take the right steps. ... Hopefully it'll make a difference in the big picture. ... I don't have it all figured out, and I've made so many mistakes in my own life, but I'm hoping that we're doing the right things, the wise things for Austin's case, for the young men in our program, and that we'll keep taking the right steps forward. I just want to hopefully lead them well, and our staff, and go forward. ... But, yeah, not easy. Not at all. Been hard, for sure."
Here are three more things to know about Nichols' dismissal ...
1. Virginia's ceiling has been lowered
The Cavaliers will still be good because Bennett is still the coach. His teams are rarely not good. But this loss does hurt from a purely basketball perspective. A lot of Virginia's top-10 ranking was based on the idea that Nichols would prove to be an all-ACC performer, if not an All-American. That won't be the case now. So the Cavaliers seem less likely to compete for the ACC title.
2. Some Memphis fans will rejoice
I'm not sure why anybody would celebrate a young person complicating his life in a very public and embarrassing way. But sports fans are sports fans. So the Memphis fans who felt betrayed by Nichols when he announced his intention to transfer in July 2015, and when his attorney blasted former coach Josh Pastner's staff, are predictably enjoying this news. If nothing else, now they can find comfort in the fact that they didn't lose a future All-American but instead a player who only lasted one game at the school he chose over Memphis. In other words, Nichols is the anti-Tarik Black -- i.e., somebody who didn't better himself by leaving home. And some Memphis fans -- not all, but some -- are smiling about that.
3. Nichols' future is up in the air
When the news broke, people immediately asked, "What's next for Nichols?" The answer is unclear. But after speaking to sources Friday night I'll be shocked if he ever plays another minute of college basketball and unsurprised if he never plays basketball again at any level. Truth is, whether Nichols actually enjoys playing has long been questioned by coaches who have worked with him and folks who know him well. He seems to be somebody who has played more because he's tall and good than because he's passionate about the sport. So a part of him probably feels unburdened by this development. Because no matter what, Austin Nichols won't be playing basketball any time soon, and that might be OK with Austin Nichols.