BYU guard transfers amid mission mix-up

The balancing act that is college recruiting and scholarship dispersal is never easy, no matter the coach or program. It’s not rocket-science either, of course, but it does entail a precarious, fluid calculus: Players graduate on time, or earn redshirt years, or leave for the NBA draft, or transfer unexpectedly, and any given coaching staff ends up juggling not only sheer numbers but positions and needs and skill, too.

At Brigham Young, all those challenges apply, but they also come with a unique wrinkle: the two-year Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints mission many BYU athletes embark on after their freshman seasons. Suddenly, a promising freshman who anywhere else would be focusing on a big sophomore campaign gives himself to a far-flung LDS church mission, and must be replaced, but with the proper finesse ensuring that player can return after two years. It’s not hard to see how these nuances could lead to occasional fumbles. Which is exactly what happened to Damarcus Harrison.

According to the Salt Lake Tribune, Harrison, a South Carolina native who played limited minutes as a BYU freshman in 2012, confirmed he will transfer to Clemson for the 2012–13 season.

Why? Harrison planned on leaving BYU for his mission this fall, but when his LDS church bishop in South Carolina decided he wouldn’t submit the paperwork until January, Harrison’s plans were delayed. He wanted to return to BYU for another season and take his mission next summer. But when he tried to return, his scholarship had already been awarded to another player.

It’s one thing to lose two years to a cause you’re devoted to; it’s another to sit around for a year and do nothing thanks to sheer unfortunate circumstance. So Harrison told the Salt Lake Trib he would apply the NCAA for a waiver to be allowed to play immediately, though he “declined to specify the basis of his appeal.” Which, admittedly, is where things get tricky. The hardship waiver applies to student-athletes who are compelled to transfer because of financial hardship or illness (to themselves or a family member). Harrison isn’t transferring because he wants to be close to an ill family member. The financial hardship side of things could be a better case: If Harrison didn’t leave BYU, he would be without a scholarship. But when he enrolls at Clemson, even if he isn’t allowed to play basketball, he’ll still have his scholarship. I’m no NCAA procedural scholar, but I have to admit it doesn’t look good.

Harrison’s circumstances are almost wholly unique. Hopefully, the NCAA will examine the extenuating details of the case and realize he had little or nothing to do with the sudden need to transfer. (Frankly, he seems like he would rather be at BYU anyway.) Common sense may yet win out.