Michigan State coach Tom Izzo talks about his disappointment with Joey Hauser being denied immediate eligibility by the NCAA. Matt Charboneau, The Detroit News
East Lansing — There will be no late changes to Michigan State’s playing rotation. The NCAA made sure of that this week.
Spartans coach Tom Izzo confirmed on Thursday that sophomore forward Joey Hauser, who had been attempting to gain a waiver that would make him immediately eligible after transferring last summer from Marquette, had his appeal denied and would not be eligible to play until next season.
Izzo, who has consistently maintained he believes players who transfer must sit a season, was upset with what he called “arbitrary” decisions by the NCAA in its decision whether to grant waivers.
“Joey didn't come here because he thought he was going to play right away,” Izzo said. “There was not even any talk about that. But as waivers started to pile up as the summer went on, Joey and his family felt they had a strong case. And I don't really appreciate when some people are getting waivers, and other people aren't.
“All the research I've seen, the consistency and the guidelines for this seem absurd. There's arbitrary decisions being made. And what bothers me the most is they're being made by individuals who don't really understand what's going on in our game.”
The decision by the NCAA ends a story line that has dragged on since late summer. When Hauser first arrived in East Lansing, there, indeed, was no plan to apply for a waiver. But once he did, there was optimism. Still, the initial application was denied and Michigan State appealed.
The appeal process eventually led to a phone interview this week before the final decision was delivered on Wednesday.
“In my humble opinion, the decision was probably made in the first appeal,” Izzo said. “I can't get into the specifics of everything and I apologize for that, but some of the answers I got, I vehemently disagree with.
“Joey did have a strong case and I'm devastated, if you want the truth. I did not think anything of it in August, because we weren't going to do anything. … I'm devastated he has to sit out his second season in three years, because he did go to school early.”
Because of an injury that wiped out Hauser’s senior season at Stevens Point (Wis.), he enrolled early at Marquette but did not play in the winter of 2018. Last season, he averaged 9.7 points and 5.3 rebounds a game while being named the Big East Freshman of the Week five times.
Once the season ended, Hauser and his brother, Sam, decided to transfer. Sam Hauser transferred to Virginia and is sitting out this season for the defending national champion with one season remaining. Sam Hauser did not apply for a waiver.
No. 3 Michigan State (3-1) entered the season with a big hole to fill at the power forward position, a spot the 6-foot-9 Hauser would have filled perfectly. With Hauser out, sophomore Thomas Kithier and freshman Malik Hall have progressed quickly, while sophomore Marcus Bingham continues to slowly improve.
In that sense, the Spartans will be fine waiting a year to get Hauser on the court for an official game.
“I do believe that we have a tight team,” Izzo said. “We're going to get through it and he's going to get through it.”
While the team will be fine and Hauser can now put his focus on playing the scout team and preparing for a return next fall, Izzo was left steaming after the decision.
A longtime member of the National Association of Basketball Coaches and one-time president of the group of more than 5,000 college coaches, Izzo resigned his board position on Wednesday night.
“Because of Jud (Heathcote) I was taught to care about the game,” Izzo said. “I was on boards. I was on panels. I was on all those things that matter to try to help the game become successful. That ended last night. I’ve always tried to be a good soldier. They lost a good soldier.
“I do not agree with what was going on. I'm tired of beating my head against the wall to try and have other people tell me what's going on in my profession.”
Izzo insisted the decision wasn’t made as any sort of emotional reaction to the denial of Hauser’s appeal.
“It was difficult for me,” Izzo said. “The NABC is very important to me, and so it was a tough call. I made it immediately, but I didn't make it off the cuff. I had thought about things that I do and don't like about my profession and I’m not making a stand. They'll get another good person in there, a better person in there. But it wasn't fun, wasn't easy. It was just something that I felt I had to do. And it wasn't in protest of anything, it was more that I just don't want to put myself in a position to have to be dealing with things that I think are questions being answered by people who don't know.”
Now Izzo, in his 25th season leading Michigan State, turns his attention solely to this year’s team, one that many believe is the favorite to win the national championship a season after reaching the Final Four for the eighth time during Izzo’s tenure.
The Spartans are headed to Hawaii for next week’s Maui Invitational where they’ll play Virginia Tech on Monday, either Georgia or Dayton on Tuesday and potentially No. 5 Kansas on Wednesday. When they get home there’s a home date with No. 1 Duke on Dec. 3.
That schedule will keep him busy, as will continuing to help his team navigate things after the tragic death of Zachary Winston, younger brother of star guard Cassius Winston.
There will still be some lingering disappointment, though.
“I’m not going to worry about everybody else right now,” Izzo said. “I'm worried about my players and worry about my university. But I am very, very disappointed in the outcome. I'm very disappointed in the way it's gone.”