The Removal of Marcus Wallace Jr.
Late last week Southeast Missouri State University announced the departure of three college basketball players from their program. The Southeast Missourian swiftly followed with an article.
On the surface it appeared simple enough. Beneath the gloss, the polish, this untimely dismissal stinks of callous, unethical behavior that possibly runs counter to NCAA bylaws.
The NCAA clearly defines justifiable reasons for canceling a student-athlete’s scholarship.
Can a coach cancel a student-athlete’s scholarship?
Depending on various circumstances, a school can choose not to renew or cancel a student-athlete’s scholarship. The school has the choice to reduce or cancel the scholarship at the end of the period of the award. The school could also cancel the scholarship during the period of the award under the following circumstances:
- Student-athlete becomes ineligible
- Student-athlete commits fraud
- Quits the team for personal reasons
Did Southeast Missouri cancel Marcus Wallace Jr.’s scholarship? Technically, no.
Head Coach Rick Ray told him he was no longer on the team, but did allow for Wallace Jr. to stay on scholarship for the remainder of the year. Since his scholarship is year-to-year this is all the school is required to do to abide by this portion of the rules.
Southeast Missouri was offering Wallace Jr. a year-to-year scholarship. Multi-year scholarships are an option.
“It really depends on the institution because we have multi-year AID agreements,” said Southeast Missouri State University Assistant Director of Athletics for Compliance Rachel Blunt.
Multi-year AID agreements became an option in 2013, but they are implemented at the behest of the institution and the athletic departments on a selective basis.
September of 2014, CBSSports.com writer Jon Solomon wrote an exhaustive article on schools’ widely-varying implementation of multi-year scholarships.
Southeast Missouri is required to honor the scholarship until the full academic year concludes. And for Wallace Jr. they are doing that.
“He is going to transfer,” said a source close to Wallace Jr. “But, he is going to stay (through spring semester). “He is not leaving at this last minute. Because it is last minute he has nowhere to go. It is my understanding that he can’t even transfer to any OVC school. I just know that during his high school that Murray State was one that was on his list.”
Can Marcus Wallace Jr. be kicked off the basketball team without cause? That is open to interpretation. Generally, college basketball programs will cite a vague “violation of team rules” and move on.
Coach Ray has not given a specific reason for the dismissal of the players.
Southeast Missouri Sports Information Director (SID) Jeff Honza directed OVCHoops.com to the initial press release, within which Rick Ray states, “Our program was unfortunately not a good fit and I want these young men to have the best opportunity to be successful,” said Ray. “I think Marcus, Ladarius and J.T. are all fine young men, and wish them the best.”
Parsing people’s words can be sloppy and dangerous, but is Marcus really being given “the best opportunity to be successful?”
Even if he wanted to transfer (he was not given the option of staying), Wallace Jr. would never personally elect to leave mid-season.
“Here is how it works,” said the source close to Wallace Jr. “If you leave over the Christmas break, then you have a year and you can play next year. The fact is that, if he did do that…he has to sit out a year, meaning this semester and the fall semester next year.”
Worse, Wallace Jr. would lose an entire year of eligibility. As it is now, the family is electing to lose just the second semester of the 2015-2016 season. This is Marcus’ sophomore season, meaning he will have two full years of eligibility remaining when he finds a new program.
The best possible situation would be to remain on the roster all winter, with a small chance of earning back playing time, during which he could showcase his abilities to other college coaches.
According to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, “Statistics show that about 40 percent of men’s basketball players do not attend their original school by the end of their sophomore year.”
The Transfer Epidemic is an enormous problem that every person associated with and even in charge of college basketball and college athletics at-large is aware of. At this point Wallace Jr. is joining that disconcerting statistic.
If the high school recruitment is any indication of his future chances, then Wallace Jr. just might continue his basketball and academic career at a Division One university.
To be clear Marcus Wallace Jr. and family were not promised anything from former Head Coach Dickey Nutt during the recruitment process. They were not sold a bag of goods, like ‘Come start for us right away’ or ‘If you play for us you will go to the NBA.’
The family and Marcus were told, “‘We think you are a good player,'” said the source close to Marcus Jr. “‘You will get a chance to play against pretty good competition.'”
Wallace Jr. entered college with plans of competing and earning playing time. If Coach Nutt had not been fired perhaps his sophomore season would have unraveled differently.
Perhaps most troublesome is that Wallace Jr. already completed a second recruitment, of sorts. When Coach Nutt left Wallace Jr. could have left too. In recent years the NCAA often grants a release from the scholarship if a coach leaves the program.
“We are finding out now that there were a bunch of schools that were interested in him last year,” said the source close to Marcus Jr. “Nobody could tell us about it because he was still a Redhawk scholarship athlete and he could not be contacted by him and that information was withheld.”
Now Marcus Wallace Jr. has been removed from goSoutheast.com. It took a brief player-coach meeting, a 38-word quote from Coach Rick Ray, and then Marcus Wallace Jr. was completely removed from Southeast Missouri State basketball.