Todd O’Brien Denied Release By St. Joseph’s has posted an interesting letter from Todd O’Brien, a former basketball player at St. Joseph’s University presently attending the University of Alabama-Birmingham (UAB).  O’Brien transferred to UAB as a graduate student and intended to take advantage of the same NCAA rule that allows graduate students, such as Wisconsin’s Russell Wilson, to transfer for their last year of eligibility without sitting out for a season.  However, O’Brien’s former coach at St. Joseph’s, Phil Martelli, refuses to sign a release, a prerequisite to eligibility. 

Without the release O’Brien cannot play.  O’Brien’s letter implies that there is no reason for the denial, save for spite.  O’Brien’s lawyer, Donald Jackson, via’s Andy Katz, stated as follows:

“Quite frankly, I don’t know why they won’t release him,” Jackson said. “The only conclusion I can make is that here is a guy (Martelli) on the (men’s basketball) ethics committee who wants to make a point. This is beyond ridiculous.”

St. Joseph’s released a statement that it will not discuss the matter, citing privacy laws and its understanding that the matter is closed.  There is obviously another side to this story, but no matter St. Joseph’s defense, here a few things to consider:

  • UAB is not in the same conference as St. Joseph’s and the schools do not play each other;
  • O’Brien graduated from St. Joseph’s yet the school controls whether he plays this season;
  • O’Brien enrolled at UAB to pursue an academic interest sparked by an internship that he had at St. Joseph’s;
  • O’Brien has no further eligibility, having transferred previously from Bucknell to St. Joseph’s; and
  • O’Brien averaged 1 point per game last season for St. Joseph’s.

I’m generally against the practice of colleges denying student-athletes a release to transfer.  The practice only serves to limit the opportunities for student-athletes, who have a very short time to compete on the collegiate level.  Scholarships have been one-year renewable contracts since 1973 (although this may soon change), therefore a school should not be able to control a student-athlete for more than one season.  In addition, coaches are permitted to change schools, so players should be able to follow suit.

O’Brien, who has graduated from St. Joseph’s, should be able to compete in his least year of eligibility no matter the circumstances of his departure.  Forcing him to sit out does nothing for St. Joseph’s or Coach Martelli (but could seriously hurt recruiting) and certainly does nothing for O’Brien.

Tip of the cap to Ben Berger, publisher of, for making me aware of this story.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

Gravatar Logo

Please log in to to post a comment to your blog.

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 553 other followers