By Alex Norman
There are a few constants in life. Death will come to us all. The tax man will knock on your door every April.
And the NCAA will remain an organization with major flaws… flaws that they have no real desire to fix.
The most recent example is the case of Tennessee basketball player Uros Plavsic, a transfer from Arizona State. Earlier this month, the NCAA denied a waiver which would have allowed him to play for the Vols this season. And so far, they haven’t explained how or why they came to that decision.
Plavsic came to America from Serbia and played high school basketball in Chattanooga. He was going to play at Cleveland State, only to flip to Arizona State to follow future ASU assistant coach Drazen Zlovaric, a fellow Serbian. Plavsic redshirted to the 2018-2019 season. Then, Zlovaric was reportedly dismissed from ASU. Plavsic wanted to be closer to home, so he transferred to the University of Tennessee.
This is a case in which the hypocrisy of the NCAA is on full display. While Zlovaric apparently didn’t leave on his own accord, coaches can bolt on a moment’s notice. At the same time, the kids they coach must go through a long and arduous process to transfer themselves. Sometimes the NCAA lets a player play right away, such as in the case of quarterback Justin Fields, who left Georgia after the 2018 season and has been the starter at Ohio State this season. Other times the “student-athlete” isn’t given that opportunity and must sit out a year.
For Plavsic that decision from the NCAA is even more worrisome because he’s already used his redshirt season. If he can’t play this season, that means he will lose a year of eligibility.
Typically, in these situations the affected school says something about wanting the process to play itself out. But not this time. Tennessee came out guns blazing.
“Uros Plavsic was denied clearance to compete with our men’s basketball program this season, and our appeal of that decision also was denied,” said Tennessee athletics director Phillip Fulmer in a statement. “We are extremely disappointed – quite frankly, stunned – in this outcome, and feel strongly that very compelling facts support clearance for immediate eligibility. We are at a loss as to how this decision aligns with a mission of prioritizing the well-being of student-athletes, and we are struggling to provide an explanation to a deserving young man who stands to lose a year of eligibility. We will stand by Uros and support him in every way possible as we exhaust all options in advocating for his competitive opportunity.”
“I think we’re all disappointed,” said Tennessee men’s basketball coach Rick Barnes. “Uros is a wonderful kid. He’s been really patient with it… I’ve got full confidence that Coach Fulmer and our compliance people are going to do everything they can.”
Tennessee has one final appeal to make, and Barnes threw in another shot at the NCAA over its lack of transparency. “It’s not over yet, and when it’s over, I’d like to know, if it’s not in the favor we want, I do think… Whether I do (or not), Uros deserves that answer more than anybody. He deserves it.”
Is this hurting Tennessee basketball? Yes. Plavsic plays down low, a position of need for the Vols. But this move from the NCAA hurts the kids more than anyone else.
Here’s hoping they came to their senses sooner than later.
Let the kid play.