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Failure to Communicate: The Saga of the Miami RedHawks and Nike Sibande

National exposure has brought to light the back-and-forth between Sibande and Miami, as well as the ugly side of college sports and the waiver process.

NCAA Basketball: Miami (OH) at Missouri Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

Nike Sibande and the Miami RedHawks have found their way into the national spotlight this after Jay Bilas shed some light on the back-and-forth between Miami and Pitt regarding the transfer and immediate eligibility waiver of Sibande. He had his waiver request denied and has filed for an appeal, partly due to the fact that Miami will not release him to Pittsburgh so he can play for the Panthers and be with his newborn daughter in Pittsburgh. Before we react to this mess, let’s go through the timeline of events.

Here’s What We Know

  • Nike entered the portal on April 29 and got contacted by Pitt (among other schools) in the ensuing days. Sibande transferred to Pittsburgh in late June, and Pitt assistant athletic director for compliance Laura Fink files a waiver request to the NCAA on August 13, citing the birth of Nike’s daughter Oaklynn and subsequent move as grounds for approval.
  • Miami athletic director David Sayler sent a letter to Fink on August 28 stating that Miami was not supportive of the waiver request because he “indicated to the coaching staff and administration that he sought a bigger stage on which to prepare for the NBA.” Sayler also mentioned that Miami would not keep Sibande from coming back from Oxford.
  • In an ESPN article this week, Miami head coach Jack Owens and associate athletic director of compliance Brad Corbin stated that Nike insinuated that Miami was trying to “run him off” the team but that they had a scholarship waiting for him upon his return.
  • The NCAA denied Nike’s request for immediate eligibility.
  • Pitt appealed to the NCAA due to Sibande’s obligations as a father as well as concerns regarding COVID-19. Pitt also mentions that Nike checks every box regarding transferring due to a birth of a child. Sibande is waiting to hear the result of the appeal.
  • Miami Athletics released a statement via Twitter on Oct. 7, saying they were “aware of a recent article regarding a transfer waiver for a former student-athlete,” and that the program offered the player (who is inferred to be Sibande) a scholarship, but were rebuffed, ultimately giving them the justification for reufisng to support the waiver.

Reactions

First of all, it is bewildering to me why Miami would think that it would be acceptable to not support Sibande’s request (just because the NCAA allows you to do something, it doesn’t mean that you should).

What could they possibly gain out of it?

Sibande has made no intimation that going back to Oxford is a possibility, and denying him the opportunity to play for Pitt just makes the leadership at Miami look petulant. It’s not like Miami has turned away from bringing in transfers in the past, so why should Sibande leaving be treated any differently? Are they afraid that Miami basketball won’t make the jump from mediocre to slightly-above-average? This is just a shameful look for Miami that was totally avoidable if they did the right thing and let Sibande go.

On the other hand, if what Miami is saying is indeed what happened, then Sibande should have more clearly articulated the reasons behind the waiver. He should have had something committed in writing and dated so that he had something to fall back on in case Miami did refuse to accept the waiver.

It is shameful that it has to come to that and that the NCAA has made an unnecessary mess of the waiver process, allowing schools like Miami to take punitive measures against student-athletes simply because the supposed adults want to hold players against their will. Last July, we touched upon the waiver and grad transfer process, and why the NCAA should consider abolishing it outright. Hopefully, this saga, and others like it across the college sports landscape, will lead to meaningful change for the waiver process, and take these kinds of decisions out of the schools’ hands, because up to this point, they have shown that they can’t handle the responsibility.