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What’s behind an NCAA transfer waiver approval?

After the NCAA’s shocking denial of transfer waivers for Evina Westbrook and Destiny Littleton, the Swish Appeal team went to work examining the causes toward which the governing body of collegiate sports holds sympathy. Here are the results of our groundbreaking research.

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Will Evina Westbrook play for UConn this year? Heres everything to know about the NCAAs waiver process.
Evina Westbrook will have to ride the Huskies’ bench this season following the NCAA’s denial of her request to be declared immediately eligible to play.
Brad Horrigan/Hartford Courant/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

South Carolina head coach Dawn Staley said she and Destiny Littleton were both “devastated” by the NCAA’s denial of the Gamecocks’ appeal for the Texas transfer to be declared immediately eligible to play. Sophomore guard Evina Westbrook, transferring from Tennessee to UConn following the firing of her coach, was denied a waiver to play and UConn’s subsequent appeal also was denied. UConn coach Geno Auriemma made scathing comments about the NCAA’s inconsistency with its decision-making, stating:

I would like to know why some people do get cleared or get waivers and others don’t. I don’t know what the criteria is.

Who does it punish? Does it punish Tennessee? [Westbrook]’s not going to be there anyway. The only person that it punishes when this happens is the kid who’s trying to get themselves in a better environment. … This was a special situation. That’s why we asked. That’s why we went as far as we did. We’ve never appealed any kid’s transfer before.

The NCAA does very little to explain its decisions or the criteria to which Auriemma referred. This season, Elizabeth Balogun and Liz Dixon, who transferred to Louisville from Georgia Tech following the firing of their coach, saw their waivers approved. So, Swish Appeal set out to uncover which situations garner the sympathies of the NCAA, resulting in approvals.

Here’s what we uncovered about the players who were declared immediately eligible to play and the reasons their programs sought waivers:

Elizabeth Balogun and Liz Dixon (Georgia Tech) to Louisville

Louisville appealed to the NCAA to allow Balogun and Dixon to play immediately so that the Cardinals had more consecutive jersey numbers on their roster. Dana Evans, Yacine Diop and Seygan Robins wear numbers one through three, respectively, and Mykasa Robinson wears number five. Balogun was assigned jersey number four, making it consecutive numbers one through five. Kylee Shook wears jersey number 21 and Jazmine Jones and Jessica Laemmle wear numbers 23 and 24, respectively. With Dixon assigned number 22, more of the Cardinals’ roster is filled in with consecutive jersey numbers.

Braxtin Miller (Oklahoma State) to Ohio State

This one is a little tricky. After Swish Appeal made a FOIA request, we learned that a little-known football player named Braxton Miller — no, that’s not a misspelling, that’s how he spells his name — attended Ohio State in the early 2010s. Further investigation is required to substantiate the rumors that the hooping Braxtin Miller came back to Ohio — where both players also attended high school — because she has it out for her footballing counterpart. Does she (aided by the NCAA) seek to alter his legacy? Create confusion among his fans? Why was the one-year waiting time normally expected of transfer students not required of Braxtin when it’s required of so many others? We’ll let you know the details in our Pulitzer speech.

Nicole Johanson (Valparaiso), Maxine Moore (Western Michigan) and Aly Reiff (Xavier), all to Detroit Mercy

If you were to pick a school that could quickly produce a superteam that goes undefeated all the way to the national championship, which would you select? Those in the know would go with the Detroit Mercy Titans, easy. Obviously, they’ve been at this for years, bringing in players from around the country to assemble a team that can compete with the best. Until now, the Titans have hidden under the radar — and their single NCAA Tournament appearance — as they plot for more. But this season, time will tell if three transfer waivers prove to be the tipping point for this behemoth in the making. That is, if the NCAA’s bonds can no longer restrain the darkness looming in Calihan Hall. Anyway, is 2020 finally the Titans’ year? We’ll all know soon!

Te’a Cooper (South Carolina) to Baylor

As a graduate transfer, Cooper is not beholden to the same rules as students who haven’t graduated. But we’ve learned that her reason for seeking a transfer is so compelling that had she not been a graduate transfer, her waiver to immediately play for the Lady Bears would have been approved anyway. Cooper became a vegan within the last year and applied for transfer on the grounds that she could not, in good conscience, continue to play for a team whose mascot — the Gamecock — amounted to poultry. The NCAA approved Cooper’s waiver because they so admired her conviction.

Cameron Swartz (Colorado) to Boston College

Swartz has been all over the country — she’s from Georgia, went to Colorado as a freshman and now plays for the Eagles as a redshirt sophomore. She transferred to Boston College in January 2019 and spent her second semester in Chestnut Hill before suiting up for the Eagles this season. Swartz scored 18 points in their win over St. Francis on Nov. 10. Her home state is very warm so it’s interesting that she would leave that place and play in Boulder. When she transferred to BC, the NCAA was impressed that she was tough enough not only to brave the cold in Colorado but to remain cold by transferring to a New England school.

Arsula Clark (UL Monroe) to Tulane

Clark can thank the ghost of Clara Baer for the approval of her transfer waiver. Baer was a women’s basketball pioneer, a physical educator who introduced to the game to the young women of Sophie Newcomb College, the former women’s coordinate college of Tulane University, in 1895. However, Baer’s brand of basketball did not seek to disrupt the traditional social norms of the New South. According to historian Pamela Dean, she established a “feminine/diminutive version of basketball.” Baer intended to use the sport to teach her pupils “self-control, physical and moral courage, and teamwork.” Approximately 120 years later, the NCAA still prioritizes such pious norms, thus permitting Clark to suit up for the Green Wave this season.

Deja Church (Michigan) to DePaul

From Michigan and having played two seasons with the Wolverines, Deja Church needed a change. According to sources inside both Michigan’s and DePaul’s women’s basketball programs who spoke with Swish Appeal on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak on the matter, Deja chose DePaul because she thought it’d be cool for someone with the last name “Church” to play for the Blue Demons. DePaul declined our attempts to speak with Ms. Church on the matter.