Bellarmine’s Juston Betz writes letter pleading for rule change

The Bellarmine men’s basketball team continues to appeal for the chance to compete in the NCAA Tournament. Senior guard Juston Betz wrote a letter to the NCAA asking the team to qualify and play in next season’s tournament.

“There is nothing more powerful than a community of people standing up for what they know is right,” Betz wrote in a letter he shared with The Courier Journal on Friday. “I simply ask that the NCAA and all parties involved also fight for what is right, what is best for student-athletes and participating institutions in Division I. I truly believe there is no no better time than now to reconsider a rule that was put in place over 25 years ago.”

The Knights made national news in March when they won the ASUN Tournament Championship, just two years after making the jump from Division II to DI. The ASUN champion receives an automatic offer for the NCAA tournament. But a decades-old NCAA rule bars programs from making such a competitive leap into the college show for four years.

Betz says in the letter that he’s answered many questions about why Bellarmine didn’t qualify for the tournament — the Knights also pulled out of the playoffs entirely — and it frustrates him that he doesn’t have a chance. clear answer for fans.

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“‘Why couldn’t you all make it to the NCAA Tournament? You deserved it,'” he wrote. “‘Has the NCAA given you a reason why things can’t change?’ There have been hundreds of interactions and questions like this to which I have yet to formulate a definite answer.”

He also acknowledged the team was aware of the rule and accompanying transition period, but pointed to conference and league oversight and Bellarmine’s performance since moving to Division I as evidence that the circumstances current rules render the rule obsolete.

“Can’t we all agree that times have changed?” wrote Betz. “Bellarmine University was invited by ASUN to join the conference and is governed by said conference. We are also overseen by an NCAA transition agency that evaluates our progress and performance, and we have exceeded all criteria that were placed during our transition, particularly academic excellence.”

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Betz said he grew up as the child of two University of Louisville graduates and how watching some of his favorite players like Francisco Garcia and Tyquan Dean inspired him to become a college basketball player. The first game he went to as a child was at Freedom Hall.

“Standing in Freedom Hall again,” Betz wrote, describing the team’s ASUN Championship. “Only this time I’m on center court. I remember looking up at my old seat in section 329, as close to the rafters as possible. We were about to play for something that only 32 teams in the whole country get to play for: a conference tournament championship.”

The sentiment on Selection Sunday when commentators spoke of Bellarmine’s exclusion from the tournament was painful, he said.

“We dreaded the banal sound of ‘Bellarmine is ineligible to play in the NCAA Tournament,'” Betz wrote. “It was a punch we had no reason to take.”

Betz thought using the letter to appeal to the NCAA could give a more human touch to the team’s message and show how the rule affected players in real time.

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“Coach (Scott Davenport) and I were talking, and we agreed it would be good for the NCAA to hear a student-athlete’s perspective,” Betz told the Courier Journal. “Sometimes they don’t necessarily know how their decisions affect us. I thought it would be more powerful to speak from my perspective and express how not participating in the NCAA Tournament affects not only myself, but also my teammates.

Bellarmine has filed a waiver with the NCAA, and the board has until Aug. 3 to decide if the Knights will be eligible for inclusion in the 2023 NCAA Tournament. Betz hopes his letter will connect emotionally with decision makers and will cause them to re-examine what the team considers to be an outdated rule.

“The goal of any kid playing Division I basketball is to play March Madness,” he said. “We had a historic run last year and we weren’t rewarded accordingly for the success we had. I wish they would take another look at it and reconsider their original reasoning for the rule.

Bellarmine's Juston Betz (1) runs past the Jacksonville defense for a layup during the ASUN Championship game in Louisville, Ky. on March 8, 2022. Bellarmine won 77-72.

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If the NCAA doesn’t lift its requirements, Bellarmine still has two years in its transition period before being eligible for the tournament.

“These players deserve it,” said Davenport, who added that trying to appeal for the rule to be overturned or overturned consumed him. “I lay my head down every night, and I hope and dream that it happens because of the young people. These are four of the best years in the life of these student-athletes. It’s about the players. »

Contact Jonathan Saxon at [email protected] or 502-715-1393 and follow him on Twitter at @TheSleepyScribe.

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