DURHAM, N.C. (WTVD) -- In what amounts to a championship feeling, several former North Carolina Central University women's basketball players are celebrating the news they will be able to keep their scholarships if they remain in good academic standing.
In a statement sent directly to ABC11, a spokeswoman for NCCU confirmed the reinstatement of at least seven scholarships to former players not already graduating this year.
"We are committed to the academic success of all our students including student-athletes who were part of the women's basketball team during the 2017-2018 season but who will not be returning next year," Ayana D. Hernandez, Associate Vice Chancellor for Communications and Marketing, announced. "The university has reallocated resources for the seven students who are not graduating in May to continue and complete their education at North Carolina Central University. NCCU will provide scholarships and other funding to support each academically qualified student as she matriculates through her respective undergraduate degree program."
Tuesday's decision by NCCU comes just a week after an ABC11 I-Team report highlighted NCCU's desire to build a winning women's basketball program, but with a high cost of threatening the academic careers of players recently cut from the team.
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.
Trish Stafford-Odom, who just completed her first year as head coach, cut nine players out of the 13 eligible to return.
"Yes you're there for basketball but you're also there to graduate," Oliver-Alexander, a junior from California, told ABC11. "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."
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."