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NCAA denies waiver request for Xavier forward Ben Stanley, who sought in-person classes

2020-11-21 00:14:36
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Adam Baum
 
| Cincinnati Enquirer

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Xavier University’s men’s basketball program had high hopes for transfer Ben Stanley and what he could bring to the Musketeers this season, but those hopes will have to wait a year after Xavier announced Friday that Stanley’s waiver was denied by the NCAA, making the 6-foot-6 junior forward, who transferred from Hampton University, ineligible for the 2020-21 season. 

Over the phone Friday night, Stanley said getting the news that he wouldn’t be able to play this season was devastating.

“I just didn’t understand why I was being punished for making a decision that’s best for me,” said Stanley.

Stanley redshirted his first year at Hampton and played there the last two seasons. 

When the coronavirus pandemic hit earlier this year, Stanley said that Hampton canceled all in-person classes, and in a July interview with The Cincinnati Enquirer, Stanley said, “That was a big thing, going to a school where I would be in class, learning face to face. It’s a little more stable at Xavier right now in this climate.” 

That’s a major part of the case Stanley and Xavier presented to the NCAA, according to documents obtained by The Enquirer. 

In its opening statement, Xavier gave three reasons for why Stanley should be immediately eligible. 

Xavier first pointed to COVID-19’s academic impact on Stanley. The statement detailed how Stanley’s academic performance suffered after Hampton moved all classes to a virtual setting. 

In his own statement that accompanied Xavier’s initial statement to the NCAA, Stanley wrote that he didn’t have a computer, struggled to correspond with his professors, and his grade-point average suffered. 

According to Stanley, Hampton announced on July 1 that the upcoming fall semester would remain remote learning, and Stanley was worried he would continue to struggle, so on July 7, he entered the transfer portal. 

Stanley said one of the reasons he chose Xavier was because it continued offering in-person instruction. 

Shortly after Stanley’s arrival at Xavier, he underwent an assessment with team psychologist Dr. Peter Ganshirt, who diagnosed Stanley with Mathematic/Calculation Learning Disorder and Written Language Learning Disorder, which Xavier explained it was better positioned to assist with through its Student-Athlete Academic Support Services. 

“This is indicative of a broken system,” Greg Christopher, Xavier’s Director of Athletic, said Friday. “It’s a broken structure. It’s part of why the transfer rule is changing in January. It’s going to be voted on and changed. The problem is Ben Stanley is collateral damage and at the end of the day, Ben is being penalized because he has a learning disability and his former institution won’t support him.”

Included in his statement, Stanley also explained why he “did not feel safe going back to Hampton University during this pandemic,” which revolved around the protocols that were in place and the plan going forward to navigate the pandemic. 

One of the sections Xavier submitted in its initial statement presented its plans and protocols in relation to the pandemic as evidence that Stanley is safer in Cincinnati. 

The last reason Stanley and Xavier presented for immediate eligibility was that forcing Stanley to sit out of the upcoming season would only delay his completion of eligibility and the start of his professional basketball career. 

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After those initial statements, Xavier was asked to submit additional information. Again, Stanley and Xavier supplied written statements that contained additional details from the first. Stanley’s letter went into specific points about his academic struggles caused by an online-only learning model. 

“I loved Hampton I never would have transferred from there if the school was in person,” Stanley wrote. “Had they not gone online I would still be attending Hampton. I entered the (transfer) portal two days after they announced all online classes. I genuinely felt anxious about having to go through that cycle of confusion for another semester or maybe even year.” 

Stanley added that since enrolling at Xavier he’s meeting with a tutor twice a week, his academic advisor once a week, and he’s received special accommodations from the learning disability services office. 

Xavier’s second submission included two more letters: one from Dr. Ganshirt, and one from Leslie Fields, Xavier’s Director of Compliance. 

The final correspondence from Xavier to the NCAA was written appeal statements from Fields and Stanley, as well as a video message from Stanley, which means Stanley’s initial waiver request was denied and Friday’s news was the denial of his appeal, marking the end of the road in the process. 

“I had to sit out my first year (at Hampton) due to NCAA Eligibility requirements. I was deemed a NCAA Non-Qualifier coming out of high school. Academics has always been a struggle for me, but I feel great about my current academic situation. Mentally it would be very difficult to be forced to sit out another year due to a situation that is completely out of my control. Please approve my appeal and allow me to play with my team this year,” Stanley wrote to conclude his appeal.  

The Enquirer reached out to the NCAA for comment, but it’s well-documented that the NCAA doesn’t discuss individual cases. 

The only response Xavier received from the NCAA was a short note in Stanley’s waiver file that said the circumstances in the case are not unique enough to warrant relief from the legislation. 

“It was a really hard conversation because Ben did what was right for him,” Xavier head coach Travis Steele said Friday. “At the time when he made his decision he did the right thing and he knows that to this day.

“…There’s a lot of bullshit waivers, quite honestly, that are getting approved all over the country and then you have this young man who it’s all legit, and he’s getting penalized for it.”

Amid the current climate, it’s hard for Steele to understand why this played out the way it did. 

“The NCAA always talks about student-athletes,” Steele continued. “I don’t ever want to hear that again. With Ben’s case, it was out of his hands, it was a unique circumstance. They don’t care about the student-athlete. That’s the way I view this whole thing. It’s really frustrating.”


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