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YSU Non-Renewals Show Nuances in Scholarship Debate

Joe Scalzo of

Shar’Rae Davis, Amanda Barger and Taylor Hvisdak will not be playing for Youngstown State’s women’s basketball team next season, but they want to make one thing clear: It wasn’t their choice.

Head coach John Barnes released the three players from their scholarships following the season, his first with the Penguins. Barnes replaced Bob Boldon last spring after Boldon was hired by Ohio University following a three-year stint at YSU.

Of the three, Hvisdak has the toughest argument that her cancellation was unfair. She came to YSU as a walk-on, and was explicitly told that her scholarship was only one year and would not automatically be renewed. Contrast that with what recruits are told, that the scholarship is only written for one year but is always renewed.

Barger’s situation sounds like a classic case of what happens with a coaching change. The player feels like they cannot do anything right and the coach seems intent on bringing in their own players. Even the reason for the dismissal sounds familiar, blowing up minor team rules violations into justification for not renewing the scholarship. Barger’s case more than the others raises the debate of exactly what athletes should be guaranteed in their scholarships.

The non-renewal of Davis’s scholarship is the toughest to defend. Davis was the reigning conference newcomer of the year, so it would seem she had a leg up on returning players to impress the new coach. But an illness forced her not only off the team but out of school. There’s a good argument that but for the illness, she would have played and been on scholarship next year. Calling this a non-renewal for medical reasons would have some logic.

The reason given for the non-renewal though was a violation involving Davis. While not enrolled in school, Davis drove to a game at Oakland University and stayed with a teammate in the team hotel. The lodging was an extra benefit since only athletes enrolled and eligible for competition may receive expenses for road games. Davis paid the cost of the hotel room and will serve a three game suspension next year.

The violation itself is hard to defend, both as a general rule (athletes should be allowed to travel with the team absent a good reason) and the extenuating circumstances in this case (Davis’s absence from the team was due to a medical condition). If Davis were returning, this is the type of violation the institution would appeal and speak out against. Instead it is used as the justification for not renewing her scholarship.

The circumstances of each departure also make it difficult for the three athletes to transfer and play immediately. The NCAA’s “run off” waiver requires that the athlete not have an opportunity to participate for reasons outside the athlete’s control. That would preclude Davis and Barger from getting the waiver. The waiver is also based on the opportunity to participate rather than the scholarship. Hvisdak’s scholarship was not renewed but she was offered a walk-on spot, which means she had an opportunity to participate. In cases where a new coach comes in and wants their own players, the least they can do is facilitate an easier transfer to another institution.

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