Pacific University’s Women’s Basketball team is protesting the implementation of the “free semester” that was promised.
Last week, Pacific University’s women’s basketball appeared on the court at Linfield University in their usual Pacific warmups, but noticeably white tape covered up “Pacific.” The action was taken in unity with a player on the men’s basketball team who had been deemed ineligible.
Earlier in the month, Jared Cattell, a fifth-year senior on the men’s basketball team, was forced to sit out a game after learning he would be ineligible for the spring semester. Ultimately, Cattell was told he was ineligible because he was no longer a degree-seeking student, and he was forced to move from his on-campus housing because he was no longer considered a full-time student.
The miscommunication from the athletic department led to a loss of a single basketball game and potentially a loss of a seat in playoffs. Cattell has been a starter for all five years of his basketball career at Pacific and is a lengthy guard that has been a scorer and facilitator for the men’s basketball team.
“It was almost traumatizing for me to lose my housing and my passion in the blink of an eye,” explained Cattell.
But Cattell’s mother found the NCAA waiver that said you can be a post-baccalaureate and still be eligible to play as long as you are enrolled in six credits that advance you towards a professional goal. In Cattell’s case, it was classes that would better prepare him for Physical Therapy School. After forwarding the waiver to Keith Buckley, the Athletic Director, and President Coyle, Cattell was returned to the team and is back on the court.
Despite this, Cattell is trying to find a silver lining in it all, opening the door for all winter sports to utilize their eligibility.
“I am extremely grateful for my teammates and coaches who supported me and continually made me feel like I was part of the team when I had felt like I had been forgotten,” explained Cattell.
The NCAA granted a year of additional eligibility to any student-athlete who missed a season during the 2020-2021 COVID-19 pandemic year. That means the term “fifth-year” will be used until the class of 2024 graduates, and Pacific University’s famous “tuition-free semester” will be kept. Many student-athletes have used their extra year of eligibility and tuition-free semester to continue their education and sport for an additional semester or school year. Spring and fall sports have had no issues cashing in their extra year of eligibility and free tuition because their seasons begin and end during the semester. However, winter sports begin in the fall semester and end in the spring, complicating the arrangement.
Pacific had informed the players that they would still be responsible for the entire workload of credits for the fall semester while the school would cover two credits for the spring semester. But this was not what winter sports athletes were promised, and they were effectively denied the free year of eligibility that all other sports received.
In particular, the women’s team was displeased because their tuition-free semester was far from free. The women’s basketball team had to do something to fight for the right they had been promised.
“It was our idea collectively as a team to put tape over our warmups, but our coach supported us,” shared Rilee Price, a senior guard on the team. “Pacific was backing out on promises that they had made during the COVID year. We felt we had held up our end in the deal, and Pacific was not holding up theirs.”
Several women’s basketball players met with President Coyle and Dean Sarah Phillips to ensure they would not be in the same situation as Cattell. Initially, they were denied the request to cover the more expensive of the two semesters; a , but this has since been revised—and winter athletes will be granted equal opportunity to complete their eligibility and academic careers. — Emily Rutkowski and Zander Breault