NCAA

Virginia Tech transfer Brock Hoffman loses bid for immediate eligibility despite mother's health issues

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Twitter/@BrockHoffman76

Virginia Tech transfer Brock Hoffman loses bid for immediate eligibility despite mother's health issues

The Brock Hoffman situation is truly the NCAA at its worst.

Hoffman transferred to Virginia Tech from Coastal Carolina and sought a waiver for immediate eligibility. It wasn't because he had lost a position battle, it wasn't because of a coaching change, it wasn't because of grades (Hoffman had a 4.0 GPA in the spring and fall semester in 2018). Hoffman transferred because he wanted to be closer to his mother who is suffering aftereffects after having a brain tumor surgically removed.

And the NCAA denied him.

This is the latest misstep by an organization that is seemingly incapable of making reasonable, smart decisions regarding student-athletes that no one could possibly have a problem with.

The decision by the NCAA, issued Tuesday, is a blow to the Hokies' offensive line. Hoffman would likely have been the starting center this year. But that is completely beside the point. Virginia Tech fans should not be mad about this because of what it does to the offensive line, people, in general, should be mad about this because of how outrageously stupid and indefensible it is and because of a total lack of consistency in the process when it comes to granting immediate eligibility.

The background

Stephanie Hoffman was diagnosed with an acoustic neuroma, a non-cancerous brain tumor, in January 2017.  Brock enrolled at Coastal Carolina that year. After several surgeries, the tumor was removed, but Stephanie still suffers from its effects.  Coastal Carolina is located in Conway, S.C. which is about a four-hour drive from the Hoffman's home in Statesville, N.C. Brock decided to transfer in February to be closer to home and chose Virginia Tech. Blacksburg is about two hours from Statesville, cutting Brock's trip home in half.

Filing and denial

When the words "brain tumor" and "mother" are used in the same sentence, no more explanation should be necessary. But the NCAA has its rules for immediate eligibility so Hoffman filed for a family medical hardship waiver in March. One month later, he was denied. Hoffman filed multiple appeals and provided documentation of his mother's condition, but to no avail. His final appeal was denied Tuesday.

The NCAA's process

In June, the NCAA changed the language regarding waivers for immediate eligibility saying a player must have "documented extenuating, extraordinary and mitigating circumstances outside of the student-athlete's control that directly impacts the health, safety or well-being of the student-athlete."

The NCAA made the rule stricter in the wake of criticism over granting too many waivers, such as quarterback Tate Martell who transferred from Ohio State soon after quarterback Justin Fields transferred in. This led many to assume Martell was transferring because of competition. Yet, Martell was granted immediate eligibility at Miami.

A situation like Hoffman's, to most sane and rational people, was not the type of situation the NCAA's stricter wording was meant to target.

No straight answer

Not only was Hoffman's waiver denied, but every explanation for the denial was baffling.

As Hoffman noted in his Tweet, Blacksburg falls just outside the 100-mile radius the NCAA gives in its guidelines. The real egregious explanation, however, is the fact that the NCAA apparently felt Hoffman's mother's condition had improved since he was at Coastal Carolina.

Her condition improved in that she no longer had a life-threatening brain tumor, but, as noted by Hoffman,  she still suffered from facial paralysis, hearing loss and eye issues and still has multiple doctor visits that are difficult for her to get to on her own without help. That part, the NCAA evidently did not take into account.

Hoffman's final appeal, however, was denied for a different reason. According to Andy Bitter of The Athletic, Hoffman's final appeal was denied because he did not transfer quickly enough after his mom's initial diagnosis.

To be fair, the final appeal was adjudicated by seven people who were not NCAA employees. Common sense and basic human decency were evidently not required to participate in the said committee.

Imagine you are a kid just about to start college on a football scholarship. Your mom gets diagnosed with a brain tumor and has to undergo several surgeries. Not only do you not know how the life of your entire family is about to change, now you have to worry about a ticking clock hanging over your head because if you don't transfer right away, the NCAA won't think it's all that serious.

Seriously, what's the message here? Does the NCAA think Hoffman is using his mother's brain tumor as an excuse for immediate eligibility?

Oh, and just in case you are not mad enough by this decision, Bitter also noted that the NCAA made its decision without ever talking to Hoffman's family directly.

Well done, NCAA. You are finally getting tough against families with brain tumors. Now you can go back to telling everyone how you have the students' best interests at heart.

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March Madness Revisited: No. 16 seed UMBC makes history with win over No. 1 Virginia

March Madness Revisited: No. 16 seed UMBC makes history with win over No. 1 Virginia

History was not on UMBC’s side as it entered its showdown against top seeded Virginia on March 16, 2018 looking to become the first 16-seed to knock off a number one seed in NCAA Tournament history. 

“All we had talked about leading up to that game was numbers really don’t matter,” UMBC head coach Ryan Odom said on NBC Sports Radio. “It just takes one night.”

But that historic evening when everything went right in a stunning 74-54 win over the Cavaliers, one of the great upsets in sports ever, almost did not happen.

The University of Maryland-Baltimore County, like most mid-major basketball programs, needed to win its conference tournament to make the NCAA Tournament. UMBC went 12-4 in America East play but lost both of its games against Vermont. The Catamounts finished 15-1 in conference play, cruising past UMBC in each of its regular season meetings and earned the right to host the America East championship game. 

Tied at 62, Silver Spring native and DeMatha Catholic alum Jairus Lyles buried a 3-pointer with less than a second to play to send UMBC dancing for the first time in a decade. 

Prior to that victory, the Retrievers had lost 23 straight games against Vermont.  

Now the stage was set. UMBC was the No. 16 seed in the East Region and would face 31-2 Virginia. The Cavaliers won the ACC regular season and tournament championship in 2018. Virginia was also voted No. 1 in the final five weeks of the Associated Press Top 25 poll. This was a total mismatch on paper.  

But after one half of basketball on a Friday night in Raleigh, N.C., UMBC and Virginia were tied at 21. This didn’t look like much of a mismatch anymore.  

“The way we felt about [the game] at halftime was we’re 20 minutes away from history,” Odom said. “It would be a shame if we got too excited or too far away from the game plan.” 

Far from it. The Retrievers opened the second half with a 17-3 run that left everyone in the building stunned and never looked back. UMBC finished the evening with 53 second half points. 

The Cavaliers had allowed 53.4 points per game in 2017-18, tops in the nation. And 15 of Virginia’s previous 33 opponents scored less than 53 points in a game. It was a defensive powerhouse, but that all fell apart against the Retrievers those final 20 minutes as the possibility of an upset drew closer.  

“Both teams really struggled scoring in that first half and that gave us, ironically, some confidence going into the second half,” Odom recalled. “We felt like at that point we could play with them. If we could start hitting some of the shots we were getting in the first half, that we would have a legitimate shot to stay in the game. Obviously it turned out a little different than that and we did more than just hang in.”

How did this happen? Was there a perfect locker room speech? Nope. 

“We approached it the same way we would have any other game,” Odom said. “That particular team was very experienced in a lot of ways.” 

The Retrievers did have an ingredient that is common in many upsets in the NCAA Tournament: Quality guard play. It’s almost impossible to pull off an upset of that magnitude without it.  

“You know how it is, guards win games in college basketball,” Odom said. “We had three really good ones that were able to outplay really good players, guys that went on the next year to win the national championship.” 

UMBC’s backcourt of Lyles, K.J. Maura, and Jourdan Grant combined for 46 points. Lyles led all scorers with 28 points on 9-of-11 shooting from the field. 

Following the jubilation of making history, UMBC needed to turn its attention to Kansas State. 

Less than 48 hours after shooting 67.9% from the field in the second half against the top-ranked defensive team in the nation, the Retrievers scored just 43 points in 40 minutes and went 14-of-47 from the floor. UMBC still trailed the Wildcats by just three points with under 90 seconds to play before ultimately falling 50-43. 

“We’re all proud about the Virginia game but we think more about the Kansas State than [the Virginia Game],” Odom said. “Would I have like some more shots to go in? Absolutely. It would have been special to make it to the Sweet 16. But certainly...no regrets.”

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On this day 36 years ago, Patrick Ewing, Georgetown top Hakeem Olajuwon, Houston for only national championship in program history

On this day 36 years ago, Patrick Ewing, Georgetown top Hakeem Olajuwon, Houston for only national championship in program history

Patrick Ewing looked on helplessly as his eighth-seeded Georgetown Hoyas melted down in the second half of their Big East tournament game against No. 9 St. John’s on March 11, losing in the first round after blowing a double-digit lead.

The loss effectively ended the Hoyas’ season with a 15-17 record, marking what would’ve been the fifth straight year Georgetown missed out on the NCAA Tournament field -- had the rest of the season not been canceled due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.

It was a far cry from the performances of Ewing’s playing days, when Georgetown was a national powerhouse. And exactly 36 years ago from Thursday, that dominance peaked with the first and only national championship in Georgetown history.

Long before Ewing starred for the New York Knicks during a Hall of Fame NBA career, one in which he averaged 21.0 points, 9.8 rebounds and 2.4 blocks in 17 seasons, the 7-foot center stepped onto Georgetown's campus in 1981 as the crown jewel of what some considered to be the best recruiting class that year.

Prior to his arrival, the Hoyas were just turning the corner as a program. Legendary coach John Thompson guided the team to five NCAA Tournament appearances in the previous seven seasons after it had made just one appearance all-time -- losing in the 1943 national championship. 

But once Ewing stepped on campus, the Hoyas transformed into perennial national championship contenders.

Georgetown reached the title game in three of Ewing's four years at the school, including his freshman season when they lost to a North Carolina team led by Michael Jordan and James Worthy. But two years later, on April 2, 1984, Georgetown defeated Houston 84-75 to finally clinch its first and only national championship in program history.

Houston, led by the great Hakeem Olajuwon and leading scorer Michael Young, was a formidable foe, having made the Final Four the previous two seasons and losing in the national championship in 1983. The Cougars’ Alvin Franklin scored a game-high 21 points, but they didn’t have the depth to keep up with a Georgetown team that got contributions from all over.

Five players scored in double-digits for the Hoyas, including a team-high 19 points off the bench from freshman Reggie Williams. Michael Graham, who was named to the 1984 All-Tournament team along with Ewing, Olajuwon, Franklin and Young, added 14 off the bench. David Wingate had 16 and Michael Jackson scored 11 points with 6 assists for the Hoyas.

Ewing, who had 10 points, 9 rebounds and 4 blocks, came out victorious against Olajuwon in the battle of giants and was named the Final Four Most Outstanding Player. Olajuwon finished with 15 points, 9 rebounds and 2 blocks.

Ewing's final stat line that season: 16.4 points, 66% FG, 10.0 rebounds, 3.2 blocks, and he was a first-team All-American playing for a Georgetown team that finished the season 34-3.

The following year, Georgetown made it back to the championship but was upset by an eighth-seeded Villanova. Ewing was selected first overall in the NBA draft that summer, but the Hoyas still enjoyed prominence as one of college basketball’s darling programs for several years after his departure.

Today, much of that luster has faded, which is why Ewing mans the sideline as coach now in hopes of guiding the Hoyas to the promised land again. But on this day 36 years ago, it was more than a dream. They Hoyas were the NCAA Div. I men's basketball national champions.

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