The athletic scholarships of four N.C. Central women's basketball players have been revoked for next season, according to the parents of those players.
Parents of freshman forward Alyssa Thompson, junior guard Dominique Adams, junior forward Deja McCain and junior guard Jayla Colhoun said the four players each met one-on-one for about 15 minutes with coach Trisha Stafford-Odom on March 9, three days after the Eagles' season ended with a 76-67 loss to South Carolina State in the MEAC tournament. Later that day, the four players received letters via email that stated their scholarships would not be renewed.
Stafford-Odom declined to comment. Kevin Buczek, N.C. Central's assistant sports information director, also declined to comment, saying “we are not allowed to confirm due to student-athlete privacy.”
According to a statement released by the school, "Athletic scholarships at NCCU are granted for one academic year. The decision to cancel, reduce or renew a student-athlete’s scholarship award is within the purview and discretion of a coach. The university also carefully complies with its obligations as per NCAA Bylaw 126.96.36.199, providing notification to student-athletes about a reduction or non-renewal of their annual scholarship by the required July 1 deadline. Student-athletes whose scholarships are canceled, reduced or not renewed may appeal the decision in accordance with NCCU’s scholarship appeal process for all scholarship recipients at the university.”
The reason why the players' scholarships were not renewed is unclear, and all four athletes have appealed the decision.
“We don’t expect them to change their minds, however, there are some things going on with that program that needs to be addressed and brought to the light," said Thompson's mother, Lisa Davis.
Adams' mother, Sylvia Adams, said a group of parents have requested a meeting with athletic director Ingrid Wicker McCree, Chancellor Johnson O. Akinleye and the NCCU Board of Directors. Sylvia Adams said she has received an email from McCree, who said her daughter would have an academic scholarship for the summer and fall. That however, didn't satisfy Adams.
"I told her it was bigger than that," Sylvia Adams said. I want to make it clear that they will take care of the school, but she (Stafford-Odom) was just trying to get all of coach Taylor’s players out of there we believe. I told her (McCree) that I thought she was part of the problem.”
According to the letters sent to Thompson, McCain, Calhoun and Adams, athletes can appeal if they believe the cancellation of the aid was “unfair or unjustified for reasons other than academics.” In order to appeal, a student-athlete must make a written request and will receive a hearing on or before April 8, according to the letter sent to each athlete. The athlete must include a written explanation and any supporting documentation (if applicable) of why they feel their Athletics Grant-In-Aid should not be canceled.
Davis, Adams, Dawne McCain, the mother of Deja McCain, and James Calhoun, the father of Jayla Calhoun, each said their daughters are in good academic standing and did not have any disciplinary issues during the season.
Dawne McCain said she didn’t understand how a coach could release players who hadn’t done anything wrong and were in good academic standings with the school.
“These kids are aggressive in their academics and she just let them go,” McCain said. “I think that’s disheartening to say the least.”
Calhoun said he wouldn’t feel comfortable with his daughter, Jayla, playing under this current coaching staff even if they won the appeal, adding “I don’t think this coach is mature enough to change anything that she may have done wrong and do right by these kids.”
Annual tuition at NCCU for in-state students is $9,533.49 and $20,868.24 for out of state students for the 2017-18 school year, according to the school website. Some parents were concerned that others would not be able to remain in school without the full scholarship. Calhoun is from Houston, Tex. Adams is from Winston-Salem, Thompson and McCain are both from Charlotte.
“I’m not sure some of their parents can’t afford to send to school without a scholarship, so this is going to mess them up," Davis, "Some of them are already way into their (majors) toward their degrees. It's horrible, horrible. I just want this to come to the light, I really do."
Stafford-Odom took over the program in June after stints as an assistant at Duke (2009-11) and North Carolina (2011-13). She was the head coach at Concordia for three seasons (2013-16) and returned to the sidelines in Durham after a year away from coaching. Stafford-Odom brought in four new players to add to the eight holdovers from coach Vanessa Taylor’s team from the previous season. The 2017-18 roster was made up of 14 players, including one senior, Kierona Morton.
When Stafford-Odom became coach, one of the things she said she wanted to improve was the Eagles’ scoring offense. In one year under Stafford-Odom, N.C. Central went from last in the MEAC in scoring (50.3) out of 13 teams to sixth (63.1) last season. The Eagles improved by exactly one game from last season, going 9-21 in 2017-18, and had the same MEAC record (7-9) as the year before.