Rice University issued a statement today strongly denying a report that Rice signed off on waiver requests with the NCAA that allow forward Arsalan Kazemi (Oregon) and center Omar Oraby (USC) to play immediately this season.
CBS Sports.com reported that Rice agreed to sign off on both waivers because the school "was in fear of allegations coming forth from both players regarding their experiences and poor treatment while at Rice."
In its statement Rice said both USC and Oregon included in their waiver applications "meritless allegations of discrimination, including some previously asserted by a former assistant basketball coach whose contract was not renewed last spring."
While Rice did not identify the assistant coach in question, the school is referring to Marco Morcos.
As part of Rice's statement the school said both athletics director Rick Greenspan and basketball coach Ben Braun strongly deny the allegations.
Kazemi, the first Iranian-born player to compete in Division 1 basketball, was with the Owls for three years.
He averaged a double-double his last two years at Rice.
Oraby was with the Owls for two years.
He set the school record for blocked shots (54) last season.
Kazemi and Oraby are two of six basketball players who transferred from Rice since the end of last season.
As a matter of policy, Rice University avoids commenting on personnel matters or matters before the NCAA. However, allegations involving two former men's basketball players require a brief response.
In September 2012, two student-athletes received permission from Rice to transfer to the University of Southern California and the University of Oregon. Both schools have sought a waiver of the NCAA's one-year residency rule so that the students can compete in the upcoming basketball season. Unfortunately, USC and Oregon have included in those waiver applications meritless allegations of discrimination, including some previously asserted by a former assistant basketball coach whose contract was not renewed last spring.
Rice head basketball Coach Ben Braun and Athletics Director Rick Greenspan strongly deny those allegations. Rice University has a strong institutional commitment to tolerance and diversity, and both Braun and Greenspan share those values and provide services and programs that accommodate the needs of a diverse student-athlete population.
Rice does not stand in the way of student-athletes who may wish to compete elsewhere, consistent with NCAA rules. When these two student-athletes requested Rice's permission to explore transfers to other universities, Rice readily agreed, as it has in the past for other student-athletes. However, the efforts by USC and Oregon to set aside NCAA rules have included unfounded claims of discrimination and, as a result, Rice opposed the granting of the waivers and will address the allegations of discrimination in appropriate forums.
Rice University has a long history of successful, rule-compliant athletics programs that support its student-athletes in the field of play, as well as in the classroom and community, and it fully intends to defend that honorable record.