Auriemma not happy NCAA denied UConn’s appeal for former Lady Vol Westbrook

Sports

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — UConn coach Geno Auriemma says there’s no other venue for the Huskies to follow now that the NCAA has denied an appeal that would have allowed Tennessee transfer Evina Westbrook with them this season.

Auriemma made clear Wednesday night after a 64-51 win over Vanderbilt that he’s not happy with either the decision or the NCAA’s reasons. He noted the original NCAA release on Westbrook’s waiver request called her issues at Tennessee a normal situation that happens on a lot of campuses.

“Well you now what?” Auriemma said. “A lot of campuses should shut down their programs if that’s normal. That’s basically what they’re saying. Say something else. Say anything. Don’t say that’s normal. That’s the word the used: ‘That’s normal.’”

UConn argued that issues at Tennessee, which fired coach Holly Warlick in March, met the NCAA’s recently revised standards for a waiver of the rule requiring the 6-foot guard to sit out a season. Westbrook was a co-leading scorer for Tennessee last season. She averaged 14.9 points and 5.3 assists.

Auriemma refused to discuss what wasn’t necessarily healthy at Tennessee.

UConn said it provided more than 100 pages of supporting documentation, and Tennessee didn’t oppose the waiver application. Auriemma said UConn asked Tennessee to support Westbrook’s appeal.

“They said, ‘We’ve moved on,’” Auriemma said.

FILE – Connecticut’s Evina Westbrook, center, cheers for her team from the bench during the second half of a women’s NCAA college basketball game against California, Sunday, Nov. 10, 2019, in Storrs, Conn. Westbrook, a transfer student from Tennessee, was denied immediate eligibility by the NCAA to play this season. (AP Photo/Stephen Dunn)

Auriemma said UConn saw this as a special situation, which is why the university went as far as it did in appealing. Previously, players transferring into UConn simply had to sit out the season.

“And it’s got nothing to do with it would make our team better,” Auriemma said. “This team needs a lot more than Evina Westbrook to get better trust me. It’s not about that.”

UConn Athletic Director David Benedict said in a statement he believes the system failed.

The fourth-ranked Huskies received the news just before their game. Senior guard Crystal Dangerfield says they gave Westbrook a group hug. The junior guard will have two years of eligibility remaining when she suits up for UConn next season.

Auriemma said she’ll be kept busy.

“She’s got a lot of work to do to get healthy,” Auriemma said. “She’s got a lot of work to do to get involved in our program a little bit more, and she’s just going to have to use this year to just get bigger and better and stronger and all those things. But she’s a tough kid, she’s a tough kid.”

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