The hubbub around the Marshall University men’s basketball program this week isn’t about a new coach, but the team’s star player and his wish to leave the program.
Kareem Canty, the Thundering Herd’s leading scorer this past season and one of the top freshman point guards in Division I, requested his release this week. If he wants to leave, he can.
Marshall officials responded, albeit not publicly, by rejecting Canty’s request. If they want to do that, they can.
In an age of hot-button topics centered around fairness for the student-athlete, the school’s move to deny a player this request isn’t going to be a popular one.
This opinion likely will not be a crowd-pleaser, either: Marshall is doing no wrong here.
The reaction to the initial report by ESPN college basketball analyst Jeff Goodman brought considerable scrutiny to a Herd program that has been without a head coach since March 14.
Goodman reported the denial of Canty’s request on the social media website Twitter, followed by a pair of tweets that read, in part, “I am all for waiting a week or so before releasing kids following a coaching change ...” one message began. He continued in a subsequent tweet, “But Marshall could take another three weeks to find a new coach. Made a move about a month ago. Need to let Kareem Canty go.”
Rob Dauster, the head writer for NBCSports.com’s College Basketball Talk, referred to Marshall’s decision as “absurd.” Jeff Borzello, a college basketball writer for CBSSports.com, echoed those sentiments by saying the situation is a “bad look” for the Herd.
Marshall, for its part, isn’t granting ANY transfer requests during the coaching search. Sources said Canty is the only player to have requested a release.
The rising sophomore hasn’t been bashful about his predicament.
“No student athlete should have to be forced to be somewhere !” Canty tweeted Wednesday.
It’d be easy to file in line behind national sportswriters whom I respect. It’d be a safe play to take up the cause of a student-athlete pinned in by a system that favors institutions and coaches.
Here, however, is something else to consider: The school is doing what’s best for Canty right now.
Sure, this could be Marshall’s last-ditch effort to keep Canty around long enough for a new coach to be named and for the precocious point guard to reconsider his decision. But Canty has also been a considerable investment for the school.
The Harlem, N.Y., native attended four schools in three years before arriving at Marshall: Bridgton Academy in Maine, Bishop Laughlin in Brooklyn, Westwind Prep in Phoenix and Faith Baptist Christian in Brandon, Fla. He had eligibility issues, which eliminated high-major programs and helped steer Canty to Huntington.
Marshall, as is common in cases similar to Canty’s, spent significant money on an attorney to help get Canty academically qualified to play. The NCAA ultimately denied Canty, but the efforts of MU officials helped Canty gain partial-qualifier status, which gave Canty an athletic scholarship even though he was not able to play and reciprocate that investment. Canty sat out the 2012-13 season, but otherwise enjoyed the services and amenities afforded to scholarship student-athletes, from tuition and board to meals and strength training to academic support.
Marshall stuck with the kid when others couldn’t or wouldn’t. Now the decision-makers in the athletic department are getting admonished for not acquiescing to a student-athlete’s latest whim?
Remember, Canty has been in a public, one-man tug-of-war about his time in Huntington since he first stepped foot on campus. Sources said that Canty has raised the transfer topic a half dozen times in two years, which mirrors social media messages by Canty, ones that often get deleted but never erased from existence.
“I have no clue what ill be doin next year,” he tweeted in February of 2013.
“thinking about leaving, huntington not for me anymore,” he posted on Twitter in June of 2013.
“I got a lot on my mind don’t think I’ll be returning next year,” another tweet read on Jan. 12, a day after Canty scored seven points on 2-of-14 shooting in a loss at UTEP.
He then, of course, announced his decision to transfer on Twitter the day Tom Herrion resigned as coach at Marshall. Canty deleted that tweet, too.
If Canty is truly unhappy, he needs to leave. The fallout, however, makes it a confounding decision. Even if Marshall granted him a release, Canty would have to sit out yet again and would burn a full year of eligibility while awaiting the 2015-16 season, when he’d go from freshman to junior. His next school would be his sixth in as many years. He’d be three years through his five-year eligiblity clock, but with only one season of games to show for it.
On Friday, Canty’s appeal to be granted a release will be heard by a three-person committee at Marshall University. The committee will be made up entirely of non-athletic department members.
Ultimately, their decision will neither grant nor prohibit Canty from transferring. If Canty wins the appeal, he can transfer and sit out with an athletic scholarship next season. If his appeal is denied, he can find another school and hoops home, but he’ll have to pay his own way.
The latter is what he would’ve had to do his first year on campus if it wasn’t for the help he received from Marshall.
Canty’s situation reminds me of a conversation I once had with Vinny Curry, now a defensive lineman for the Philadelphia Eagles. Curry came to Marshall as an academic non-qualifier and had to sit out the 2007 season. He struggled without football and he admitted to me that he thought about quitting, leaving, transferring.
He stuck with Marshall. He persevered through a coaching change. He welcomed a new regime, developed into the 2011 Conference USA Defensive Player of the Year and parlayed that into a career as a professional athlete.
Canty can be the next Curry.
Or he can be the antithesis to Mr. Get Flee ... and flee.