Just as the college basketball season is about to kick off, former Iowa State guard Kerwin Okoro, who is grieving the recent loss of his father and brother, transferred to Rutgers to be closer to family. According to a technicality in the NCAA bylaws, however, he has been denied a "hardship waiver" to continue playing basketball this season, which he was planning to do for Rutgers Scarlet Knights.
The NCAA acknowledges that personal issues affect players. It allows student-athletes "compelled to transfer because of financial hardship or an injury or illness to the student-athlete or a member of their family" to request "Hardship Waivers." These waivers help, in theory, because they enable players to skip rules that require transfers to wait out the initial season and begin playing right away upon relocating for personal reasons.
Okoro came to the New Jersey school after playing just one season at Iowa State. He was expecting to play basketball under the waiver system. However, "death" rather than simply "injury" or "illness" is left out of the definition, a technically that causes a grieving transfer student to be denied the opportunity to play his or her sport.
Okoro's Amateur Athletic Union Coach Abdu-Allah Torrence has called the decision "crazy," saying it is "hard on the whole family." He said Okoro came to the area to be a support system for his mother, and should be allowed to continue playing the sport he loves while being closer to his family.
In Iowa, Okoro missed 14 games to travel back to New York to deal with family tragedy, although he played in four of Iowa State’s final 11 games, including the NCAA tournament victory over Notre Dame.
This decision, which requires Okoro to sit out a season, will be a loss for Rutgers. Currently, the Scarlet Knights have only 11 eligible players, and one popular recruit (Junior Etou from Bishop O'Connell High School in Virginia) who has yet to be cleared by the NCAA.