South Carolina women’s basketball is still holding out hope that transfer guard Te’a Cooper will receive a hardship waiver from the NCAA and become immediately eligible to play.
But head coach Dawn Staley said Friday that the No. 4 Gamecocks have still not heard anything about a final decision on the waiver, which was submitted on Dec. 18. Staley had previously said at the beginning of the season that once the waiver was submitted, she expected the decision to take a week.
As South Carolina prepares for its third SEC game of the season on Sunday against No. 15 Missouri, Cooper is not expected to make the trip, just as she also did for the team’s matchup with Ole Miss, because NCAA rules prohibit it.
But despite the fact that the Gamecocks have now completed about half their schedule, Staley said that the team has no intention of simply sitting Cooper for the rest of the year in hopes of resubmitting the waiver during the offseason and getting her a sixth year of eligibility.
“Even if they grant her the year back, that would be six years in college. Who wants to spend six years in college, to be honest? No one wants to spend six years in college, so if we had two games left in the season, we would want her,” Staley said of the suggestion.
The reason Cooper could even possibly get a sixth year, an extremely rare occurrence in collegiate sports, is also one of Staley’s core arguments for why Cooper’s waiver should be granted right now: Cooper missed her sophomore season in 2016-2017 at Tennessee because of a knee injury before transferring during the offseason.
Because transfers typically must sit out a season before they can play, Staley has argued that the combination of Cooper’s injury and transfer would cost her a year of eligibility, whereas if she had only had one or the other, she could redshirt and recover that lost year.
In several unique cases, the NCAA has granted a sixth year to players who have both transferred and suffered season-ending injuries. But those requests have also been denied to other players, and Staley said she is doubtful that Cooper would want to try anyway, adding that the highly-rated guard might even choose to move on to the pro ranks after the 2018-2019 season, leaving a redshirt season on the table.
“I don’t know if we’ll be able to keep her around for another year after spending two years out,” Staley said. “She might even leave after next year because she’s eligible, she’ll graduate.”