My Two Cents: NCAA Finally Gets it Right with D.J. Carton Transfer Decision

Tom Brew

When in comes to calling out bonehead decisions, the NCAA has always been an easy target through the years. It may not be true that they get it wrong more often than not,  but it sure seems that way,

Every once in a while, they get it right. And when it comes to the all-important topic of mental health these days, they made the right call on granting former Ohio State guard D.J. Carton immediate eligibility after his transfer to Marquette in April.

Granting him the waiver to not have to sit out a year sends a big message that they will take mental health issues seriously, and they didn't want to punish Carton for wanting — or needing? — a change of scenery.

Carton is a Bettendorf, Iowa native who was a heavily recruited point guard in the Class of 2019. He played well at Ohio State, averaging 10.4 points and 3.0 assists in the 20 games he played in. But on Jan. 30, he tweeted that his mental health wasn't quite right and he needed some time away from basketball. 

He spent a few weeks at home before returning to campus to take classes in late February, but he never officially returned to the team. He announced his decision to transfer in mid-March and chose Marquette.

A few years ago, Carton's decision to transfer simply for being sad would have never flown with the NCAA in regards to getting a waiver from having to sit out a year. Now, it matters more, so they've done the right thing.

It's a hot-button topic these days. The Big Ten announced a mental health initiative in early May, representatives from all 14 schools on a committee to help promote the topic. That's a big step in an area of health issues that have been long overdue. 

Getting Carton back on the court is good for the kid, and that's all that should really matter.

"He's very excited," Marquette coach Steve Wojciechowski told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. "He's thankful for all the hard work that went into it. Was very pleased with the NCAA decision. He's ecstatic, because the opportunity to play next year was not a given."

The NCAA is known for dragging its feet on waiver requests, too, and they've been overwhelmed this year with more transfers coming about because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Carton's reason matters, as did the fact that Ohio State was cooperative throughout the entire process, too. Good for them, but that was also the right thing to do.

"I think D.J. had a strong case,'' Wojciechowski said. "He had the support of the people from Ohio State. I think all of those things played a role. We wanted to get it in as soon as possible, before the football waivers. Our compliance staff did a great job. D.J. and his family did a great job. Ohio State was really good to work with.

"A lot of times with the waivers, you don't know until the season has started with practices and games right around the corner," he said. "This gives us a summer to have the team we're going to have working together under the rules and guidelines of the coronavirus protocol."

Carton has never talked about the the depths of his depression, but it's great to see that he's feeling better and ready to resume his basketball career at Marquette. Depression and suicide is a huge problem in this country right now. More than 50,000 people died of suicide last year, and nearly 70 percent of those were men. It's the second-leading cause of death among young people, which is why it's important to take it seriously.

I've never met D.J. Carton, but I'm rooting hard for him, I've written a lot about depression and suicide, and even published a couple of books on the topic. When you do that, you live it, and it's very hard. Sadness and tears? It all comes with it.

So here's to hoping Carton is doing well, and that things get better. Even more importantly, here's to hoping that help is always right as his fingertips when he needs it, because it is a very real — and very serious — illness. 

Good luck, D.J.