The University of Evansville is responding to a report published by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch earlier this week about former basketball player Dru Smith.
Smith, a Reitz grad, decided to transfer from UE on April 3 following the firing of former head coach Marty Simmons. UE Athletic Director Mark Spencer says he received an email from Smith on April 4, six days after Walter McCarty was hired as the new head men’s basketball coach, stating that he would transfer. Based on information 44News has gathered, it is unclear whether the former UE guard and Simmons spoke prior to Smith making a decision.
“Smith’s exact reasoning was ‘mainly because the opportunities that I have are too hard to pass up,'” Spencer said.
Despite Smith’s decision to leave UE after Simmons’ departure, the school says Smith supported the hiring of McCarty. Smith is currently a junior at the University of Missouri.
An article published by columnist Ben Frederickson Tuesday blamed UE for keeping Smith on the bench for the upcoming season after Missouri requested a waiver allowing Smith to play for the Tigers. According to NCAA rules, players transferring from a Division I program to another must sit out one year, unless a head coach departs a program. If the new school wants to make a transfer immediately eligible, it must submit a waiver to the NCAA. The NCAA then determines eligibility for transfers, case by case, and must accept the waiver from the new school for the player to be eligible.
Missouri reached out to UE on October 9 to discuss its intent to submit a waiver for Smith. According to Spencer, Missouri asked UE if it would support the claim that Smith would meet the “run off” standard regarding the new coaching staff. The “run off” standard is claimed when a coaching staff communicates to a player that he or she will not have financial aid renewed and would not have a spot on the team.
“We did not believe the run off standard would apply given the fact that Dru voluntarily withdrew from the program on April 3 and that the University of Evansville had offered to renew his financial aid and the new coaching staff had offered a roster spot to Dru,” Spencer said.
Spencer’s statement conflicts with Frederickson’s report, which says the Missouri compliance director claims that conversation between UE and Smith did not take place.
“On March 14…all of the student-athletes with the UE men’s basketball program would be given the opportunity to sign their financial aid agreements for the following year securing their scholarship regardless of the coaching change,” Spencer responded.
44News reached out to Clemson University, where Simmons is an assistant coach under Evansville native Brad Brownell. Clemson denied our request to speak with Simmons.
“Coach is focused on his job and time in Clemson right now and won’t have any comments about Evansville or the program in the general.”