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Daisha Simmons, Brittany Jack call for more compassion in NCAA's treatment of student-athletes

Reflecting on the recently-resolved controversy, former Alabama teammates Daisha Simmons and Brittany Jack call for NCAA student-athletes to "be treated with more respect, consideration, and dignity".

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Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

As Daisha Simmons fought valiantly for the ability to play this season at Seton Hall, her integrity was called into question by certain people within Alabama's administration. She became an unnecessary pawn in a game that's too one-sided.

But why?

It's simple: power -- and because the Crimson Tide could.

"I'm pleased for her that she can move on, play, and get on with her life," said ESPN's Jay Bilas. "This sad situation points up that these players are not amateurs, but valuable assets, and they are subject to non-compete provisions more restrictive than those of any employee.  It's just wrong.

"This needs to change. Alabama's actions were horribly disappointing and shameful, but the silence of college administrators that claim to be for athlete welfare was just as disappointing.  Fair minded people need to step forward and speak out."

And while Simmons had the emotion of elation about her immediate ability to play, Simmons was also wistful when it came to the totality of her experience over the course of months.

"I am excited about the season and I'm thankful to be able to play this year, but in all reality it's not about that," said a reflective Simmons. "At some point this situation became bigger than ‘Daisha Simmons' and it demonstrated that something most certainty has to change within the NCAA.

"Yes I only have one more year of eligibility but, I feel there needs to be a change with the way student-athletes are treated -- and I would love to see that happen."

Swish Appeal obtained the full 70-page document that Seton Hall c/o Simmons sent to NCAA on Aug 22. Once those documents were reviewed, the NCAA made Alabama aware of received documents - and its contents.

In spite of the fact that Alabama was aware of all of this information, Athletic Director Bill Battle wrote on Aug 29, 2014:

"The University of Alabama (UA) does not support the legislative relief waiver for women's basketball student-athlete Daisha Simmons to be immediately eligible at Seton Hall."

Some important specifics and highlights in the document:

  • Simmons' letter to the NCAA on why she was requesting the waiver (pages 10-12).

  • Simmons' mother writes letter stating her son Chaz's disease - End Stage Renal Disease (ESRD) and her own condition (Diverticulitis). She was also hospitalized in April 2014.

  • Letter from Seton Hall head coach Tony Bozzella (pages 14-15).

  • Letter from Joyce A. Stillman, Dean of Stillman School of Business at Seton Hall, mentions the special admissions program that Simmons was admitted under: Gap-B (Page 16).

  • Doctor's notice about Christena's medical condition (page 50).

  • Davita letter regarding Chaz health issues - "chronic Kidney disease", "limited use of left arm" (page 51).

What's so confounding is that Alabama was well aware of these specifics for months -- at any point after receiving this information in late-August they could have simply decided to support the waiver and end the fight. Instead, they chose to take the bullish stance of not signing off on Simmons' waiver. They dug their proverbial heels into the ground -- and Alabama put themselves in a PR quagmire that was totally preventable.

Alabama seemed to be tone deaf to the voices of so many: "Do what is right, Alabama." It was almost as if their eyes were so blinded by "Crimson", they failed to see the "light".

Their stubborn actions towards Simmons promulgated a multitude of merited criticisms. So many well-respected sports dignitaries and media members took a stand, swiftly and immediately, against Alabama -- and what was so obviously wrong: ESPN's Dick Vitale, Jay Bilas, Fran Fraschilla, Keith Olbermann, Richard Deistch from Sports Illustrated, CBS's Matt Norlander, Jeff Eisenberg of Yahoo Sports and Rob Dauster of NBC sports.

Then, one of her former teammates and roommate, Brittany Jack, spoke out about her own "harrowing experience" at Alabama under Coach Kristy Curry. But the Crimson Tide administration failed to heed to the many calls of support for Simmons.

"While, I am ecstatic that the NCAA has permitted Daisha to play this season," said Jack. "It is unfortunate that she had to go through such an extensive process in order to be declared eligible to play the game we love. The NCAA is supposed to be an organization that protects the student-athlete's rights.

"We are told that the welfare of the student-athlete is the number one priority, however that was not demonstrated in this instance. One would think that at a university where the student-athlete plays such a vital role in the overall culture, we would be treated with more respect, consideration, and dignity.

"Going forward, I hope the University and the NCAA handles such delicate situations with more compassion."

It should have never gotten to the point where Simmons' attorney, Don Jackson of the Sports Group, had to make a formal Title IX complaint. There has to be a way for the NCAA to modify certain rules to ensure the well-being of student athletes.

Because Alabama clearly was going to use their strong-arming power until the vilifications became too loud that they had no other choice but to #FreeDaishaSimmons.

"Frankly, it's ridiculous that Alabama has the ability to force a player to sit out," said Dauster "I understand why they're upset. Losing a starting point guard in late-May is not an easy thing to overcome. But giving coaches and schools the power to hold an unpaid, student-athlete hostage like that is just wrong.

"As far as what changes needed to be made, I have a hard time with any limits on transfers for athletes as long as they remain amateurs. These kids are supposed to be students first, right? Does a chemistry major have to take a year of humanities if they decide they want to transfer to a different school? But that's never going to happen, so I'd settle for unrestricted graduate transfers and, if possible, a system where hardship waivers don't get abused.

"And it was obvious that Alabama was going to change their decision once this became a national story. They knew they were in the wrong, they were just trying to get some revenge on Daisha."

This situation with Simmons truly opened up the eyes of so many -- especially the one that had to endure it.

"No, I don't know all the facts in the Sydney Moss, Letecia Romero or any other student-athlete case for that matter," said Simmons. "But, I still feel no student-athlete should have to experience any of it.

"Yes the NCAA is affording all of us with a free education -- and only God knows how thankful I am for that -- and all the other opportunities that comes with being a student athlete. But at the end of the day you can't put a price on treating people right and doing the right thing."

Who ever thought Alabama would do this to an alum? One day she will get a letter from the Alumni department asking for a donation -- the irony of that.

For all of our reporting on this story, check out our Daisha Simmons storystream.