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The much-awaited Bubba story

By mrasor Published: January 25, 2006

Men's basketball

Since you are all loyal readers, I'll feed you this story before anyone else. Sorry there aren't paragraph breaks. I literally copy and pasted it from the newspaper page. A cleaner version will be posted tomorrow once it's in print and online.

But first, here's another story to consider from the Athens Messenger. My buddy Mike Cottrill is the sports editor, so I don't question the facts at all. The story only had one flaw: It said Dambrot and O'Shea had nothing to say. That's incorrect. They spoke with Mike Hixenbaugh for his story, so pay close attention to their quotes.

The Messenger story gives a lot of details about Bubba Walther's relationship with Ohio assistant Brian Townsend. It was good writing and good information they wouldn't tell Hixenbaugh. Obviously, they knew each other for reasons beyond college basketball.

However, it doesn't answer the MAIN QUESTION OF THE ISSUE: Did Townsend communicate with Walther about transferring before getting permission? If so, it's an NCAA violation. If not, everything's fine.

I find it INCREDIBLY hard to believe that Walther did not communicate with Townsend about college basketball in those months when Walther considered transferring.

If you think about it, how could they not? Walther knew Townsend well. Walther had a problem at Akron with playing time and "trusting his coach." Townsend, as a coach at a program Walther wanted to attend, had a way to fix Walther's problem. And we know for sure that Walther never asked the UA athletic department for permission to talk with Townsend. So if he said a word about the basketball team, THAT would be a violation. That seems very likely to me. Of course, that's just my analysis.

Regardless, here's the story we printed....

Former Zips guard Bubba Walther might have violated an
NCAA transfer rule during his recent transfer to Ohio
University, according to sources in the University of
Akron athletic department.
NCAA Bylaw says coaches from four-year
institutions are forbidden from contacting athletes at
other four-year schools without first receiving
permission from appropriate officials at the school.
“Bubba never approached anyone in the athletic
department, in person or directly,” said Kevin Klotz,
UA assistant athletic director for compliance. “The
release request didn’t arrive until after he had
already enrolled in classes at OU.”
The university is still deliberating whether to pursue
an investigation of the potential violation, Klotz
If a violation is proven, punishment could range from
Walther being declared ineligible to Ohio coaches
losing several recruiting days. In similar cases,
coaches  received letters of reprimand and were forced
to attend classes regarding recruiting rules.
Ohio head coach Tim O’Shea adamantly denied ever
having personal contact with Walther prior to his
enrollment at Ohio.
However, the NCAA regulation also prohibits any member
of a coaching staff from contacting a transfer
athlete’s parents without permission. That stipulation
is the source of much of the controversy.
According to several sources, Walther’s father is a
close friend of Ohio assistant coach Brian Townsend.
Zips center Rob Preston remembers Walther talking to
Townsend after each of the Zips’ wins against Ohio
last season. Walther often talked about his father’s
friendship with the coach, Preston said.
O’Shea said he is unaware of Townsend’s role in
Walther’s decision. 
“I don’t know if (Townsend) had an impact on Bubba’s
decision,” O’Shea said. “Honestly, that’s something
you need to ask Mr. Walther and Bubba about. I never
spoke to the kid.”
Townsend was unavailable for comment regarding the
allegations. Walther did not return an interview
request regarding his relationship with Townsend.
“Look, I have a pretty good program down here and I’ve
never had an interest in screwing up anybody else’s
program or stealing players,” O’Shea said.

Dambrot to blame?

Walther did shed some light on his reason for
transferring, though. He said he knew he might need to
move on when guard Nick Dials transferred to Akron
from Ohio State last season.
“Last year, I could see how things were going to go
for this year,” Walther said. “I’m not a fortuneteller
but it was pretty obvious when all you heard and read
about was how someone else was going to be the future
of this program.”
Akron coach Keith Dambrot said he recognized Walther’s
concern right away, and that he took every measure to
ease those concerns about his role on the team.
Walther quit the team at the end of last season,
Dambrot said.
Walther confirmed that.
“I first considered transferring last spring.” Walther
said. “But coach Dambrot came down to my house (in
Cincinnati) and told me that things would be fair and
that people would earn their minutes and they wouldn’t
be given to them.”
Walther said he wasn’t happy with how things were
going after the first few games of the season.
“I was playing the way I knew I could, but I also knew
things were never going to change,” he said. “So what
made it final for me was listening to coach Dambrot in
the spring and thinking about what he had to say then
compared to what actually happened.
“It just made me not trust him, and if you can’t trust
your coach, then you need to make a move.”
Walther first thought of transferring because of his
role on the team. But in the end, it was an issue of
“Honestly, as weird as it sounds, I don’t expect to
play more or even as much (at OU).” Walther said. “But
I feel my role and my fit for the team will be better
here. I didn’t leave because of playing time, it was
just that I didn’t feel things were fair (at Akron).”
Dambrot disagreed.
“When a guy quits after being a First Team All-MAC
Freshman and after having a productive winning season,
you know something is mentally wrong with him,”
Dambrot said. “To quit after having the season he had,
it was obvious Bubba had it in his mind that he
couldn’t compete with Dials, Dru (Joyce) or Cedrick
“He said he couldn’t trust me? Bubba didn’t trust
himself. It didn’t really matter what happened this

The Dials factor

Walther was quick to say he didn’t have any hard
feelings for his teammates, and he cherishes the
strong bonds he formed with them.
Dials feels differently about Walther.
“He was a selfish kid that always had himself in
mind,” Dials said. “He was not a straightforward
person and he tried to act like your best friend to
your face, but then bad-mouth you behind your back. He
wasn’t the type of person I want to call a teammate.”
Dials said his relationship with the former Akron
guard suffered because of Walther’s initial attitude
toward him.
“Basically, he and I had no relationship, nor was I
looking to have one,” Dials said. “Like I said before,
I don’t want to be associated with those types of
Preston was a little bit closer with Walther. Preston,
a senior, took Walther in as a roommate for six weeks
over the summer and bunked with him on road trips.
“We all knew he was thinking about leaving, but he
didn’t say anything about leaving in the middle of the
season,” Preston said. “I had no idea he wasn’t coming
back after Christmas.”
Preston said he can’t understand why Walther would
“I think it was a bad move for him,” he said. “Our
team is going up and up and he would have been a big
part of that. Now he has to start over.”

Walther had ‘fair shot’

Walther was averaging 18.2 minutes per game with the
Zips this season before transferring. Dambrot said he
might not have even deserved that much time.
“As far as it goes, I think we gave him more than a
fair shot,” Dambrot said. “We actually gave him some
minutes he didn’t earn earlier this season because we
knew he was having a hard time mentally and
emotionally. Guys earn minutes on this team; I don’t
give them. My job is to win games.”
Akron (13-4, 6-1 MAC) is in second place in the
conference and off to its best start since 1980.
The sentiment from the players is that the team will
continue to play well without Walther.
Dials, who is averaging 27 minutes per game, is happy
Bubba transferred.
“I was told that I was why he left, but as you read
around, he has stated several different reasons for
leaving,” Dials said. “It shows you the manipulator
that he was.”

A rare case

Dambrot chose not to comment on Walther’s relationship
with Townsend and the potential NCAA rules violation.
Players typically transfer in two ways, Klotz said.
Either a player contacts a coach from a different
school, who requests permission to speak with him, or
the player simply transfers then introduces himself to
the coaches. The second instance is risky, so
scholarship athletes usually don’t attempt it. That is
what Walther claims happened, Klotz said.
To compound Walther’s risk, Dambrot  denied Walther
the release from his UA scholarship after he left.
Without a release, Walther cannot accept a scholarship
his first year at Ohio.
It is the first time in Dambrot’s career he has
refused to release a scholarship.
He did so the day after hearing of Walther’s comments.
“Whenever somebody transfers, very rarely do they
blame themselves,” Dambrot said. “It’s always somebody
else’s fault. I’m not surprised he’s blaming me.”

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