Published Sunday, November 10, 2013 at 12:01 am / Updated at 1:21 am
NCAA grants Simmons full year of eligibility

IOWA CITY — It was hard for those connected to with the UNO men’s basketball program to do anything but smile Sunday, despite a loss to Iowa.

The Mavericks aren’t big on morale victories, but there was some satisfaction in shaking up the Hawkeyes.

And after the game, maybe the most satisfying moment of all, Senior Associate Athletic Director Josh White revealed to the team that star wing Justin Simmons — a preseason All-Summit League pick who averaged 16.8 points per game last year — had been granted a full season of eligibility from the NCAA.

“When he said, ‘Justin stand up,’ I thought, ‘What did I do now?’” Simmons said, laughing. “But when he said I got (the full year), it’s like a weight came off my back. I wasn’t thinking about it, I was trying to win the game. When he told me, I felt like we just won the game.”

Simmons had twice been denied a full season of eligibility by the NCAA, at the staff and committee levels.

Originally a track and field athlete who played only one season of high school basketball, Simmons began college at Division III Concordia (Wis.) in late January, 2009. He left school at one point to help provide for a young son.

His five-year eligibility clock had been due to expire on the anniversary of his start date, which would have cost him the final nine games of the season – the bulk of the conference schedule.

White said UNO had requested a meeting with Kevin Lennon vice president of the NCAA. White, Athletic Director Trev Alberts, Chancellor John Christenson and outside counsel were scheduled to appear in Indianapolis on Nov. 18.

But the NCAA said UNO could cancel its flights. White kept the secret all weekend before delivering the news.

“It was in the best interest of the student-athlete,” White said. “He’s graduating in May, and it means a great deal to him. I have to give the NCAA credit for reversing the decision in the first place, because that normally doesn’t happen.

“I think it says a lot that our chancellor was willing to go to Indianapolis and fight on Justin’s behalf. I’m just proud the NCAA came to its senses and saw that Justin was deserving ... because he is.”

Contact the writer: Rob White    |   402-444-1027    |  

Rob White covers University of Nebraska at Omaha sports and the Omaha Storm Chasers.

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