Todd O'Brien's senior season has apparently ended before it could get started.
SI.com has learned that last Friday the NCAA denied O'Brien's latest appeal for a waiver that would have allowed him to play in games for the Blazers immediately. O'Brien's appeal became necessary because his former school, Saint Joseph's, declined to grant him his release after O'Brien transferred to UAB over the summer.
Saint Joseph's and its coach, Phil Martelli, have declined to comment on their reasons for refusing to grant O'Brien his release. O'Brien claims that Martelli made the decision because the coach is angry at him for electing to transfer.
The NCAA denied O'Brien's first appeal last fall, citing deference to the institution's decision. O'Brien re-submitted his appeal early last week so he could introduce into evidence his first semester grades and completed internship in his graduate course of study. O'Brien hoped that the latest information would prove to the NCAA that he had transferred to UAB primarily for academic reasons, which Saint Joseph's has disputed, but the NCAA determined there was not enough new evidence to overturn its original decision.
"Honestly, I wasn't surprised," O'Brien told SI.com. "I was hoping the NCAA would step in and do the right thing. I don't really see how anyone has anything to lose if I played."
O'Brien averaged 1.0 points and 1.3 rebounds in 7.2 minutes last season for Saint Joseph's. He missed four games while the university investigated his potential role in a teammate's theft of a computer laptop. That investigation cleared O'Brien of any wrongdoing.
At this point, O'Brien's only chance to play for UAB this season would be for Martelli and Saint Joseph's to reverse course and grant him his release. "All they have to do is shoot an e-mail down here and I would be allowed to play," he said. In the meantime, O'Brien said he will continue to practice with the team. He also said he and his family are discussing with their attorney whether or not they should bring a lawsuit against Saint Joseph's or the NCAA. O'Brien said that it was likely he would pursue that option.
"It seems petty and dumb for them to keep doing this," O'Brien said. "But they've done it for this long. I guess they're just going to ride it out."