|MOSCOW, Idaho - The University of Idaho women's basketball team received good news from the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) in a recent appeal ruling regarding scholarship exemptions. The Administrative Review subcommittee decided that up to two players currently on athletic financial aid in other sports at UI will be allowed to join the Vandal women this season.
"We're glad the NCAA ruled the way it did," Idaho coach Mike Divilbiss said. "Aloha Santiago joined the team today and we've worked everything out with the track coaches. We will give Aloha a little bit at a time to improve her game. Hopefully that will give our team some breathers here and there."
"The second exemption the NCAA granted hasn't been used yet."
Santiago is joining the basketball program after excelling the previous three years as a thrower on the nationally ranked UI track squad. Santiago will redshirt in indoor track this year, but her future on the outdoor team won't be decided until after the end of the hoops season.
"It worked out well that Aloha was going to redshirt this indoor season no matter what," Idaho track coach Yogi Teevens said. "She is going to return for a fifth year of indoor track next winter. Whether or not she redshirts during the outdoor season will be a decision I make based on the needs of the team heading into the conference championships."
The Idaho basketball team lost Suzy Goss for the remainder of the year just four games into the regular season. Goss tore an ACL and meniscus in a game against Boise State. Jamie Coldren has been unable to play at all this season because of surgery to repair a nerve in her foot. The Vandals have two players sitting out because of NCAA transfer regulations and four players have left the team since the start of the school year. That has left UI with only seven healthy players.
"Right now, we have no margin for error at all," Divilbiss said. "If we have a player get sick or injured, we would really be forced into a tough position."
Under normal circumstances, the NCAA has "tiers" which dictate which sport must sponsor a student-athlete's scholarship. If a player participates in more than one sport, there is an order in which scholarships must count so as not to allow a team to have an unfair advantage. For example, a football team cannot have 10 men on track scholarships that then gives that football program 10 "extra" scholarships.
In women's sports, if an athlete plays basketball, that must be the first sport counted toward any athletic financial aid awarded, regardless of any other sport in which that person may participate. Volleyball must be the second sport counted and all other sports are tallied according to their individual scholarship budgets.
The NCAA ruling means although the Vandals are at their scholarship limit (15) for women's basketball, the team may now add two student-athletes already on financial aid in another sport. The Vandals are 4-4 in the season's early going and host in-state rival Idaho State Saturday night at 5:30 p.m. UI has played its last four games with seven or fewer players.