The saga of Te’a Cooper’s eligibility appeared to end Thursday night when South Carolina women’s basketball announced that the NCAA had denied a hardship waiver for the transfer guard to play immediately.
As it turns out, things may not be over just quite yet.
After the Gamecocks defeated Arkansas on Thursday evening, head coach Dawn Staley said USC would not appeal the decision, then added that “if I’m (Cooper’s) parents, I would probably lawyer up.”
On Friday, Staley reiterated that she doesn’t think some form of legal action in the case is completely out of the question, pointing out that N.C. State men’s basketball player Braxton Beverly was also denied a waiver earlier this year, only to have the decision overturned soon after his family hired a lawyer.
“It’s worked for some other cases. I think the guy at N.C. State, I think he went that route and he got things overturned, so you can give it a try,” Staley said Friday when asked if she was serious that Cooper should hire an attorney. “We’ve already been told no, so hearing no is not going to hurt our feelings any more. But if there are any lawyers out there that want to do some pro bono work, Te’a’s available.”
However, Staley also said she has yet to hear the official explanation for why Cooper’s waiver was denied from South Carolina’s chief compliance officer, Chance Miller, or the NCAA.
“Here’s what I believe happened,” Staley said. “They called our compliance officer who worked at the NCAA. So they gave him the answer, and then they were going to follow up with why. And I want to know the why. And obviously I don’t have it yet, but he’ll get it to me.”
In the meantime, Cooper will continue to practice with the Gamecocks and have two seasons of eligibility left starting next year. All things considered, Staley said, the redshirt sophomore is handling the setback well.
“She’s out here. She’s in great midseason, end-of-the-season form, just her physicality, her presence out here, her commitment to basketball is tested during this time, but she’s not giving into it,” Staley said.
No. 9 South Carolina faces No. 11 Missouri on Sunday at Colonial Life Arena. The game, which will be televised on ESPN2, is scheduled to tip at 6 p.m.
Greg Hadley: @GregHadley9