I-Team: NCCU players cry foul after coach cuts 10 from women's basketball team

Monday, March 26, 2018
NCCU players cry foul as coach cuts 10 from team
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NCCU yanked basketball scholarships from 10 women on the team, including several close to graduation.

DURHAM, NC (WTVD) -- Everyone may be playing by the rules, but that doesn't always mean it's a fair game.

That's the message from several players recently cut from North Carolina Central University's women's basketball team, many of whom are scheduled to graduate next year.

"It's not like a football team where there's 80 people and you cut 10," Dominique Adams, a junior guard, told ABC11. "There's 14 of us, and 10 won't be back next year. That doesn't add up."

Adams, a winner of NCCU's Coach's Award and Sportsmanship Award, was among nine players cut by Head Coach Trish Stafford-Odom (the 10th player not returning graduates this spring). Among those cut: F Sami Oliver-Alexander, F Alyssa Thompson, G Jada Blow, Adams, G Jayla Calhoun, C Deja McCain, F Darria Hewitt, C Ezinne Mbamalu and F Kayla Hall.

"We didn't do anything wrong," Adams said, pointing out the strong academic record for each player.

"Yes you're there for basketball but you're also there to graduate," Oliver-Alexander, a junior from California, adds. "So to cut people that are about to graduate literally on the cusp of graduating is ... why? At that point you're messing with people's futures."

For NCCU, however, the future must include winning; while the men's team has appeared in the NCAA tournament three times in the last five years, the women's team hasn't earned a winning record since 2007. While this year's squad went 6-6 playing at home, the Eagles sputtered to a 9-21 overall record and the team was bounced quickly in the MEAC Tournament.

Per NCAA rules and regulations, coaches decide who receives a scholarship, the scholarship amount and whether it will be renewed, but the policy also maintains "A college education is the most rewarding benefit of the student-athlete experience."

The rules also stipulate that while Division I schools may offer multiyear scholarships, they are also allowed to sign players to one-year agreements, which can then be renewed. If a scholarship will not be renewed, then the school must notify the player in writing by July 1st, allowing the player to appeal. The policy also makes clear that a university may pay for bachelor's or master's degree after they finish playing on the team.

Despite multiple calls and emails to the coach, athletic director and university staff, administrators refused to allow anyone to appear on camera. In a statement to ABC11, an NCCU spokeswoman maintains "the decision to cancel, reduce or renew a student-athlete's scholarship award is within the purview and discretion of a coach. The university also carefully complies with its obligations as per NCAA Bylaw, providing notification to student-athletes about a reduction or non-renewal of their annual scholarship by the required July 1 deadline. Student-athletes whose scholarships are cancelled, reduced or not renewed may appeal the decision in accordance with NCCU's scholarship appeal process for all scholarship recipients at the university."

Six players, including Oliver-Alexander, are planning to appeal the termination of their scholarship, but others, such as freshman Alyssa Thompson, will not.

"NCCU isn't the only school with a good nursing program," Thompson said, "so I'm definitely going to transfer, still get my school paid for - Coach didn't ruin my future."