It is no surprise to learn that former Indiana guard Matt Roth won't be returning to the Hoosiers for his fifth year of eligibility this fall. There are many reasons for such a statement. Roth already has a bachelor's degree and a masters. He isn't enrolled in school in the fall. Indiana already has 13 scholarship players, which is the limit. Until recruit Ron Patterson's tough summer of academics cost him his spot at IU, the Hoosiers had 14 scholarship players. Roth participated at IU's senior night this spring. And so on.
Still, Roth -- per his conversation with the Bloomington Herald-Times' Dustin Dopirak Sunday evening -- remained a tad bit confused. It's not that he didn't get it. He did. It's just that, according to his account, he never actually received official word on his status. He kind of had to figure it out for himself.
That includes waiting to hear for much of the summer, having been told to keep his options open for the coming fall. It also includes an appearance at IU coach Tom Crean's basketball camp Saturday, during which the two "briefly spoke" but never directly discussed Roth's status. And yet, of course, it was obvious. From Dustin:
Roth said he and Crean spoke briefly at camp, but he didn’t want to pull Crean away from coaching the young players at the camp. Roth said even though Crean didn’t directly address his status, he did tell Roth to use him as a reference for any job applications. He said he appreciated that, but it also allowed him to read between the lines.
“You kind of put one and one together there,” Roth said.
For one, Roth could be spending another year at IU, but isn't because his services are no longer needed. But he seems OK with that. It's not the nicest thing about college basketball, but it is a thing about college basketball, at least until student-athletes don't face a wild imbalance of scholarship power. Also, Roth could have transferred; he could have been eligible to play somewhere else right away, per the graduate student transfer exception. The demand-supply thing doesn't always cut both ways in situations like these, but it seems to here.
What feels a little bit ickier is that Roth was told to keep his options open, and so -- instead of finding a job in athletic administration, his chosen field -- he did exactly that. He kept his options open. He didn't go out and find a gig. He didn't transfer. And ... now he's kind of stuck. Why? Because Indiana, thanks to both awkward timing and Crean's own aggressive acquisition of talent, simply has more players than it needs. From Dustin again:
“It’s going to be tough to find something,” [Roth] said. “But I’m being optimistic. I might have to take a job that isn’t in my field and make it work for a couple of years, or maybe I find something that I’ve never thought about that hits home as something I’d want to do.”
He added that what people will eventually remember about his career is that "I gave it everything I had for four years here," and he's right. Indiana fans are likely to remember him for that. They'll certainly remember him for being really good at one thing: shooting a basketball. If Roth didn't do a whole lot else during his Indiana career, man, he could shoot the basketball.
Funny thing is, that career began when Indiana needed players more than players needed Indiana. It ended just before what could be one of its best seasons in the past 25 years. And so the transition is complete.