LAS VEGAS NV - DECEMBER 30: Trey Zeigler #0 of the Central Michigan Chippewas talks to his father head coach Ernie Zeigler during their game against the UNLV Rebels at the Thomas & Mack Center December 30 2010 in Las Vegas Nevada. UNLV won 73-47. (Photo by Ethan Miller/Getty Images)
I don't envy what the NCAA has to do when doling out decisions on waiving transfer seasons. They have rules, then rules on top of rules, and after all that they still must evaluate decisions on a case-by-case basis. In some instances, they may have precedent. In this case I can't think of a similar situation (can you?) but the NCAA ruled that former Central Michigan scoring leader Trey Zeigler, who transferred to Pittsburgh recently, was cleared to play next season immediately because of his situation. I'm not so sure about this.
His situation: his father Ernie was fired as head coach at CMU and didn't want to play there anymore. A kid who could've played for Michigan and UCLA coming out of high school has larger ponds to dominate if he isn't playing for his daddy. I understand this, and I'm sure many of us saw this impending move even before Ernie Zeigler was inevitably fired.
The so-called "hardship waiver" is also sometimes given to players who, for example, move closer to home so they can tend to a long-term personal matter. This is what former Akron guard Humpty Hitchens received when he transferred to James Madison. And I don't think anyone, even UA fans, were able to question that. Something happened beyond the player's control and he shouldn't be punished for that.
Another example: when Toledo basketball was given a postseason ban, incumbent seniors Dominique Buckley and Curtis Dennis were given the options to transfer and play immediately so they could participate in potential conference and postseason tournaments. They didn't exercise that option, for whatever reason, but the point is that they'd have been given an exemption because of forces beyond their control.
But ... were all these forces really beyond his control? I'm not saying Trey was the reason CMU went 21-42 in his two years there, but then again it's hard to see how a shooting guard shoots under 50 percent from the free throw and goes completely blameless. Without question Trey was CMU's best player. He cut way down on his turnovers, improved his shooting from the floor and upped his assist/steal numbers. So it's hard to argue that he was holding the team back. And if the other players weren't performing, that's on the coach. But Trey was on the team and there were a few close losses that he could've won single-handedly with decent free throw shooting.
And I'm spitballing here, but I know that the NCAA is — or should be — doing all they can to let their stars shine. Zeigler can be one of them, and putting him on the pine for a year is hard for business. I really wonder if they didn't do this to put a potential Big East first-teamer on the floor right away, perhaps coddling to the stars. I'd wager that if Ernie Zeigler's name was Ernie McBroom, Austin McBroom wouldn't be playing for Saint Louis next season. Then again I lost 40 bucks on the cruise ship casino this week, so maybe he would get the exemption too.
In the end it's a catastrophic end for CMU. The father-son dynamic just wasn't enough and ultimately did the program in, resulting in others to leave the program, leaving Keno Davis to use the next year, likely more, to rejuvenate the team back to a MAC contender — something they haven't been since the Jay Smith days. Whether Trey was a pawn or catalyst in the demise of the program may be an agree-to-disagree point of contention, but the NCAA is leaning toward pawn.
Update: Via @rhettumphress, there is Father/Coach precedent. A former USC baseball player was allowed to transfer to Miami of Florida and play right away because the recently-canned coach was his father. An odd footnote, if nothing else: the player was Cade Kreuter and his fired father was Chad Kreuter, who played 16 seasons as a catcher in MLB and also had a small role in "Moneyball."
So I figured this has happened before, and I'm almost positive this happened before Kreuter and Zeigler. So at least there is a precedent that the Zeigler decision can bank on. Which leaves us with ... does the rule make sense?