Guard's transfer under scrutiny

“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.”

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 said.

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 trust.

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 disagrees.

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 (Middleton).

He said he couldn’t trust me? Bubba didn’t trust himself. It didn’t really matter what happened this season.

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 people.

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 transfer.

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 Oh

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.