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    Four members of the 2017-18 NCCU women's basketball team (from left to right), Dominique Adams, Deja McCain, Sami Oliver-Alexander and Alyssa Thompson, spoke to Jonah Kaplan of ABC 11 last week to raise awareness about their removal. Screenshot courtesy of ABC 11 Eyewitness News.

From lay-ups to layoffs

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Intercollegiate sports are supposed to give student-athletes the opportunity to give their time, effort and ability and receive a free education in return.

Unfortunately, this might no longer be the case for 10 N.C. Central University women’s basketball players after their sudden cut from the team just days after their season ended.

For the past decade, Lady Eagles basketball has failed to have a winning season. The intensifying pressure to earn that success may have led to the massive shake-up by first-year head coach Trisha Stafford-Odom who ended the 2017–18 season with an overall record of 9–21 (7–9 MEAC).

Guards Jada Blow, Dominique Adams and Jayla Calhoun, forwards Sami Oliver-Alexander, Alyssa Thompson, Deja McCain, Darria Hewitt, Kierona Morton and Kayla Hall and center Ezinne Mbamalu were all notified of their release from the basketball program on March 15.

Four of these players — Oliver-Alexander, Adams, Calhoun and McCain — are rising seniors who made significant contributions to the team this season.

The reason behind these cuts remains unclear to both the players and the public and came as a shock as none of these players had been reported for behavioral issues and excelled academically.

“It’s not like a football team where there’s 80 people and you cut 10,” Dominique Adams explained to ABC 11’s I-Team last Monday. “There’s 14 of us and 10 won’t be back next year. That doesn’t add up.”

This decision doesn’t only affect players’ personal lives, but their financial and academic standing as well.

More than half of the team was recruited from outside of North Carolina and must now choose to either pay NCCU’s out-of-state tuition, which is currently set at $17,210 per year, or attend another university where their credits might not even transfer. Even if a player does choose to attend another school, they must sit out a year per NCAA requirements.

When requested by the Campus Echo for the opportunity to hold a sit-down interview about the matter, both Stafford-Odom and NCCU Director of Athletics Dr. Ingrid Wicker-McCree chose to respond instead with the following statement:

“With respect to financial aid awards, athletic scholarships at NCCU are granted for one academic year. The decision to cancel, reduce or renew a student-athlete’s scholarship award is within the purview and discretion of a coach. The university also carefully complies with its obligations as per NCAA Bylaw 15.3.7.1, providing notification to student-athletes about a reduction or non-renewal of their annual scholarship by the required July 1 deadline.  Student-athletes whose scholarships are cancelled, reduced or not renewed may appeal the decision in accordance with the NCCU scholarship appeal process for all scholarship recipients at the university.”

All filed appeals are pending.

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