EVANSVILLE, IN (WFIE) - The University of Evansville Athletics Department and Director of Athletics Mark Spencer have released the following statement and timeline of events in regards to the column written this week by Ben Frederickson of the St. Louis Post Dispatch regarding former Aces men’s basketball player Dru Smith and his transfer to the University of Missouri.
Current NCAA rules in regards to men’s basketball transfers dictate that the student-athlete is required to sit out for a year in residency prior to being eligible to compete at the new institution. There is currently no active legislation being proposed for this rule to change. If the student-athlete wanted to seek immediate eligibility, it would be incumbent on the new institution to submit a waiver to the NCAA with supporting documentation.
On Tuesday, October 9th, 2018, the University of Missouri compliance department reached out to the University of Evansville compliance department wishing to discuss their intention to submit a waiver to the NCAA to request the immediate eligibility of Dru Smith. UM specifically asked if UE would support the claim that Dru would meet the “run off’ standard regarding the new coaching staff.
The “run off” standard is when a coaching staff communicates to the student-athlete that they will not have their financial aid renewed and they would not have a place on the team.
UE responded that we did not believe the “run off” standard would apply given the fact that Dru voluntarily withdrew from the program on April 3rd and that the University of Evansville had offered to renew his financial aid and the new coaching staff had offered a roster spot to Dru.
On Thursday, October 25th, after filing the waiver with the NCAA, the University of Missouri compliance department again reached out to the University of Evansville compliance department regarding the waiver. UM inquired if UE had ever communicated to Dru our intentions to NOT renew his scholarship.
UE responded by pointing out that in a meeting on March 14th with UE Senior Associate AD Sarah Solinsky and Director of Athletics Mark Spencer, all of the student-athletes with the UE men’s basketball program would be given the opportunity to sign their financial aid agreements for the following year securing their scholarship regardless of the coaching change.
In subsequent conversations once the new coaching staff was hired, all of the student-athletes were again presented with the opportunity to retain their scholarships and solidify their place in the program.
The UM compliance director then alluded to the claim that the new coaching staff did not directly engage in communications with Dru. UE responded that they could also not support that claim, as UE head men’s basketball coach Walter McCarty, his staff and the entire athletic department went to great lengths to communicate with all of the student-athletes throughout the transition. The student-athletes were included in the hiring process and Dru Smith was outspoken throughout that process in his support of the hiring of Coach McCarty.
On Thursday, March 29th, six days after the announcement of the hiring of Coach McCarty, Dru Smith sent an email to Director of Athletics Mark Spencer informing him that he had made his decision to transfer. Smith’s exact reasoning was “mainly because the opportunities that I have are too hard to pass up.”
The University of Evansville Athletics Department factually answered the questions submitted by the University of Missouri compliance department in preparation for the waiver request on Dru Smith’s behalf. UE declined to support inaccurate claims that represented the University of Evansville, the athletic department, Coach McCarty and his staff in a negative light.
Outside of the communication that is outlined above, the University of Evansville has not had any communication or impact on the waiver that was submitted by the University of Missouri to the NCAA.