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Notebook: NCAA Tightens Waiver Guidelines, Will it Affect Evina Westbrook?

UConn women’s basketball is preparing to submit a waiver request for the Tennessee transfer.

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On Wednesday, the NCAA approved legislation that could make it more difficult for football and basketball players to obtain a waiver and play immediately after transferring. The NCAA’s Division I council met in Indianapolis to update the “guidelines and directives, which in many cases appear to specify and narrow the circumstances in which athletes should be given waivers and raise the documentation requirements to obtain them,” according to USA Today.

In recent years, more players have received waivers to play immediately after transferring but those decisions have seemingly come at random with little rhyme or reason behind them. The NCAA is attempting to remediate the lack of clarity with these new guidelines.

In 2018, the NCAA changed its policy to review waiver requests on a case-by-case basis if the athlete had “documented mitigating circumstances outside of the student-athlete’s control and directly impacts the health, safety or well-being of the student-athlete.” The new rules have updated that policy to say “documented extenuating, extraordinary and mitigating circumstances outside of the student-athlete’s control that directly impacts the health, safety or well-being of the student-athlete.”

This decision will likely make an impact in Storrs where UConn women’s basketball is hoping to get a waiver for Evina Westbrook, who transferred from Tennessee after the school fired head coach Holly Warlick.

At the time of her commitment, A Dime Back’s Russ Steinberg reported the Huskies were “confident” Westbrook would be granted a waiver. That picture becomes a bit more muddled now.

The process for waivers was already unclear for onlookers — and even the coaches themselves — but at the very least it appeared the NCAA was becoming more lenient in granting them to student-athletes. But now, the legislation that is supposed to make things more clear is doing the exact opposite — at least in the short-term.

Will the NCAA start granting less waivers? Will it stay the same, just with more paperwork needed? Are certain scenarios more likely to be accepted than others? We won’t know the answers for a while, at least until the NCAA starts making decisions under the new guidelines.

On paper, it seems like Westbrook has a strong case coming from a school where the coach was fired. But now? It’s anyone’s guess what could happen.

And for what it’s worth, Geno Auriemma said on Monday at his Fore the Kids Golf Tournament that they still have not sent in a waiver request.

“They’ve got to put together a whole list of things they have to send in, so they’re still working on that,” he said. “And there’s no, ‘Well if you do this it’ll get approved. If you do this, they won’t.’ Who knows?”

Westbrook Happy to Be at UConn

Waiver questions aside, Westbrook is beginning to settle in to her new surroundings at UConn. While it’s still early, she said the transition has been smooth so far.

“It’s been great,” Westbrook said of her short time in Storrs. “The overall help of my teammates — especially having surgery as soon as I got here — they’ve been fantastic just helping me figure out the whole transitioning and the little things I need to know within the team.”

Pretty much as soon as she arrived on campus, Westbrook underwent knee surgery on June 4 and will be out until late September/early October. While she admitted it’s tough having to watch the summer workouts from the sideline, it helps she isn’t alone.

“It’s a little frustrating but especially having Crystal [Dangerfield] by my side, it’s been easier not having to go through this process by myself,” Westbrook said. “But at the same time, I want to be out there, I want to be learning all the plays and everything that we’re going through in practice and workouts. But getting to see it before I get out there has been helpful, so I know what to expect once I get out there.”

Had Westbrook stayed at Tennessee, she would’ve been in the midst of a program in transition under a new head coach. New rules, new practices, new culture, new everything. Once she decided to leave, Westbrook wanted to make sure she ended up somewhere that didn’t have those unknowns.

“Just knowing exactly what I was going to get out of it,” Westbrook said on why she came to UConn. “Our coaching staff is going to push me to my limits and make me best player that I can be and (I’ll be) surrounded by a team full of winners and champions. I’m really happy to be here and I’m really glad I made this decision.”

Dangerfield on the Bounce-Back

Westbrook’s fellow injured Husky Crystal Dangerfield said her recovery from a hip surgery on May 30 is going well.

“I think it’s feeling as it should,” she said. “I think this is the one that’s going to have me 100% and I’m ready to feel that.”

While Dangerfield isn’t thrilled about sitting on the sideline during her final summer at UConn, she knows it’s ultimately for the best.

“Adversity comes up in different ways. Injury is one you have to face at some point,” she said. “It’s basketball, I think it just happens. Hopefully this is my last one for life — knock on wood — but it’s something I needed to take care of.”