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I’m sorry, BBN. I was wrong about Olivier Sarr

I’m sorry, BBN. I thought I had done the impossible — solved the riddle of the NCAA and how it handles transfer eligibility decisions, that is. I was wrong.

Let’s back up for a second.

A few weeks ago – on August 2, to be exact – I published an article on this very website titled “Kentucky fans shouldn’t worry about Olivier Sarr’s eligibility – Not yet.” In the article (linked here), I laid out the timeline for several college basketball eligibility decisions, including a handful of rulings that took the NCAA three months (minimum) to decide. At that point, Sarr’s waiver had only been sitting on the NCAA’s hypothetical desk for about two and a half months, therefore leading me to the argument that it wasn’t time to get antsy about how long this process is taking. “Not yet.”

Sarr committed to Kentucky on May 6, 2020. Therefore, there was no legitimate reason to get fired up about the NCAA’s lack of a decision until August 6, at the earliest. That seems only fair, right? But then August 6 came and went, without news.

Then, there was this:

Caleb Grill announced his decision to transfer to UNLV on April 6. Goodman reported he’d received his waiver on Aug. 13, a little over four months after his commitment. That passes the three-month threshold I pointed out earlier, but it doesn’t bode well for receiving a Sarr decision in the immediate future.

Sarr announced his commitment to UK exactly one month after Gill announced his commitment to UNLV. Will a decision regarding Sarr’s ability to play this season therefore take exactly one more month? Should the Aug. 6 date be pushed to Sept. 13?

I did some more digging, starting with revisiting the decisions that were still pending at the time of my initial article (published on Aug. 2). Exactly two weeks later, there have been very few developments for any of these decisions. Iowa is still waiting on news regarding Ole Miss transfer Blake Hinson and Memphis transfer Tyler Harris. Speaking of Memphis, Penny Hardaway and the Tigers still don’t know whether or not Landers Nolley or DeAndre Williams (the Evansville transfer who was, at one point, eyeing Kentucky as a potential landing spot) will be able to suit up this season.

Texas Tech had two transfer decisions pending, one of which has received a little bit of clarity and one that has not. Jamarius Burton (a former guard at Wichita State) has now expressed his intention to redshirt as part of his NCAA transfer sit-out year (in similar fashion to Kentucky’s Jacob Toppin out of Rhode Island). It’s likely he either heard he’d be getting a “no” from the NCAA regarding his eligibility waiver, or he never actually submitted one to begin with. Maybe he would rather spend the year training and practicing without the pressure to actually compete in any games just yet.

Meanwhile, the Red Raiders are still waiting on news for Mac McClung, who was widely considered one of the top transfers available this off-season, like Sarr. McClung, a former Georgetown standout, set himself up for success (at least, in the eyes of the NCAA) by crafting the perfect “I’m transferring – please respect my decision” announcement. CBS Sports’ Gary Parrish described it as the “blueprint” for how to convince the NCAA you should be immediately eligible – “vague enough to not box himself in to any one story but clear enough to get it on record that McClung didn’t want to transfer as much as he felt like he had no choice but to transfer.” McClung made that announcement on May 27. The Red Raiders made things official with a signing announcement the following day. He hasn’t heard anything from the NCAA at this time, which makes sense. In theory, the NCAA should handle his decision after they’ve dealt with Olivier Sarr.

Then there’s Minnesota, coached by Richard Pitino. The Gophers have two transfers still waiting on decisions (in addition to incoming freshman Jamal Mashburn Jr., by the way). Liam Robbins and Both Gach are both hoping to play this season. However, there seems to be a few issues.

Last Friday (Aug. 14), Pitino told the Star Tribune his program is still working on the process of getting the transfers approved.

With the Liam [Robbins] situation, they [the NCAA] asked for a little bit more information. We’re waiting to get that back,” Pitino said. “And with Both [Gach] we haven’t even submitted that [waiver] yet.”

Robbins announced his commitment on social media on April 5, just one day after putting his name in the NCAA’s transfer portal. Gach committed on June 15.

Robbins is an interesting example to watch. First of all, Robbins announced his commitment to Minnesota just one day before Sarr committed to Kentucky, meaning their timelines (in theory) should be relatively similar. He’s the big man the Gophers want in their starting lineup next season; he’s 7-feet tall and averaged 14 points, seven rebounds and just under three blocks per game last season with Drake University. He was No. 5 in the nation for blocked shots with 99 total swats. He chose Minnesota as his transfer destination to “be closer to family,” which is a bit of an understatement. His uncle, Ed Conroy, is Minnesota’s associate head coach, and his cousin, Hunt Conroy, is currently on the basketball team’s roster as a walk-on guard. That’s about as close as you can get to your family, which is the reasoning the NCAA has typically loved when making eligibility decisions. And yet, the NCAA is still asking Minnesota for “a little bit more information.”

Olivier Sarr doesn’t have that luxury. He’s not related to anyone on Kentucky’s staff; he’s not transferring to be closer to his family (unless the NCAA confuses Versailles, Kentucky with Versailles, France, of course). He also didn’t necessarily follow the “blueprint” script delivered by Mac McClung and praised by Gary Parrish – Sarr didn’t always keep things vague and non-basketball related.

“I felt that was the best fit and the best opportunity for me,” Sarr said in an early interview with ESPN. “Being able to play for that great program and showcase my winning drive on that stage. Coach Cal made me understand that I was needed over there.”

Of course, he does have the fact that his former coach, Danny Manning, was fired by Wake Forest right when he needed to be making a decision regarding whether or not to enter the NBA Draft. He does have Wake Forest’s current coach’s support (even though Steve Forbes “unknowingly” insulted Kentucky at first).

Plus, Sarr is transferring to a program where his new head coach, John Calipari, has publicly and consistently supported his players’ decisions to transfer away from the Bluegrass and play for other programs (see: Kyle Wiltjer, Marcus Lee, Charles Matthews, Sacha Killeya-Jones, Quade Green, Jemarl Baker and Johnny Juzang, for example). The most recent of which (Juzang) was granted immediate eligibility in a little over a month’s time. He signed with UCLA on April 16 and received his waiver from the NCAA on May 27.

I never promised Olivier Sarr’s fate would be handed down exactly on August 6 – I know the NCAA isn’t that predictable. Still, I did say August 6 is the date I would circle on my calendar (and I did!). But now, as Kentucky fans and coaches continue to wait, it’s clear that was wishful thinking. There are players who committed to their new program before Olivier Sarr committed to the Cats who are still waiting on decisions; there are others getting approved right away (it helps if you play football and your last name is Tagovailoa, apparently). I’m sorry for getting the BBN’s hopes up on August 6 and the days that followed, only for you to be let down by the “non-profit, member-led organization dedicated to the well-being and lifelong success of college athletes.”

Maybe there isn’t always “rhyme or reason” behind the NCAA’s decisions (or lack thereof). Maybe they’re just busy trying to figure out how to even have college basketball this season. Maybe they’re regretting their decision to table the discussion (and subsequent vote) for a one-time transfer eligibility rule until the 2021-22 school year. Maybe they’re not. Maybe Dick Vitale is right. Maybe he’s not.

Maybe there’s a logical way to solve this riddle, but I’m done trying. The NCAA will provide answers when it wants to, and not a moment before.

P.S. – Is now a good time to bring up that Joey Gatewood announced his commitment to UK on December 5, 2019?

[Kentucky fans shouldn’t worry about Olivier Sarr’s eligibility – Not yet]

Article written by Maggie Davis

I love sports, podcasts, long walks on the beach and Twitter (@MaggieDavisKSR)

10 Comments for I’m sorry, BBN. I was wrong about Olivier Sarr

  1. mashman 93
    9:57 pm August 16, 2020 Permalink

    All good here Maggie and we’re talking about a decision on a player from the NCAA which is always confusing because of the inconsistency of the NCAA. Now, with all that being said they have been consistent this year so keep your fingers crossed. #FreeSarr

  2. CJKAssassin123
    12:05 am August 17, 2020 Permalink

    I’m been telling you guys that Cal has been notified by the NCAA that they should receive the decision within 21 day from now. Speculation is that Sarr is now expecting to get his wavier request denied by the NCAA and has already begun the appeal process but has not dated or officially sent out the appeal documents. He just filled them out in case.

  3. runningunnin.454
    12:19 am August 17, 2020 Permalink

    Has anyone seen a transfer waiver actually being denied this year…I have scoured the net, and can’t find one? That said, it would be too much to expect the ncaa to admit that they should have passed the one-time transfer rule instead of postponing it until 2021. The ncaa making such a concession would look something like this,

  4. mothandras
    8:15 am August 17, 2020 Permalink

    Sarr wont be eligible NCAA are cowards and wont tell us the truth… they will wait it out until the season starts… and make Sarr sit on the bench, just seeing if UK will make the mistake of playing him without approval.

    • CJKAssassin123
      9:16 am August 17, 2020 Permalink

      Anything to help Duke and UNC!!!

    • ClutchCargo
      9:55 am August 17, 2020 Permalink

      This is the worst case scenario, to me. I don’t expect it to happen, but this would be a great way to stick it to UK. But this being 2020 and all, we can probably count on it happening. 🙁

  5. BobbyBlue
    1:06 pm August 17, 2020 Permalink

    The unqualified, corrupt, Mark Emmert has quietly managed to raise his salary to almost
    $4 million, for what— he has shown no leadership through this pandemic.
    He has been on a vendetta against Calipari ever since Terrance Jones changed his commitment from UW to UK, while he was the incompetent president at UW.
    He has already stalled long enough to be sure the cupboard was empty of any available replacement Cal could sign for Sarr.
    The stall continues, I suppose in hopes that Sarr will jump ship and head overseas or to the G league if that is still possible, at this late date.
    The full Kanter treatment is now in full force.
    He will only announce Sarr eligible if it is completely obvious that there can not be a season. Meanwhile the Zion eligibility from last season is not even in question, and Miller, Wade, are going right on as if nothing happened.
    Emmert needs to be fired, sooner rather than later.

  6. makeitstop
    10:39 pm August 17, 2020 Permalink

    Lawyer up. Only thing the NCAA respects is money, and if u get in their pocket and make them spend, u get their attention. Otherwise they’re bureaucratic elitists of the worst order.