The case for a fourth year of eligibility with the Coyote women’s basketball team began almost two years ago for Nicole Seekamp. Emails, recruitment files and other documentation were being assembled slowly, but it looked like the senior guard would be graduating from the University of South Dakota in May 2015.
But those plans changed April 20.
The National Collegiate Athletic Association granted a fourth year of eligibility to Seekamp, one of the most decorated women’s basketball players in USD history.
“I’m ecstatic that I have been given the opportunity to compete with this group of girls,” Seekamp said in a statement from the athletic department. “I’m looking forward to improving my game and continuing my education at USD.”
Seekamp could not be reached for a comment by the time The Volante went to print.
To keep Seekamp on the Coyotes’ roster, the USD athletic department’s NCAA compliance team built a case to support her.
It began with recognizing that she would, essentially, lose two seasons of play if she was not reinstated.
She was forced to sit out the 2011-12 season after playing amateur basketball in her home country of Australia. She would also lose a year of eligibility at the end, according to NCAA rules, leaving her only three years of playing time.
Drew DeGroot, USD compliance director, said poor communication between officials in the U.S. and Australia didn’t help advocating for Seekamp when she was being recruited.
“In July 2014, the NCAA granted the legislative relief people more leniency in cases like (Seekamp’s),” DeGroot said. “They had an overwhelming number of cases where it was kind of a similar situation.“
The compliance team submitted a case to the NCAA after the women’s team finished up its season at the Summit League Basketball Tournament last month.
Admittedly, Athletic Director David Herbster was not optimistic that the extra year would be granted.
When they finally received word from the NCAA, the department brought in Seekamp and broke the news.
Herbster said it was hard keeping a straight face.
“We are excited, but more importantly, we are excited for Nicole,” Herbster said. “It was disappointing early in the process, prior to her even coming here, that not only was she going to sit out a year, but she was also going to lose a year.”
Seekamp will still walk across the stage for her undergraduate diploma in May. She will — instead of pursuing professional basketball — pursue a master’s degree in psychology.
Now, Seekamp’s head coach Amy Williams will have to start game planning to have one of her leaders back on the court.
Williams would not admit that expectations are higher or lower than last season, where her team finished second in the conference. She said, however, Seekamp fits almost every possible role on court, so it’s better to be with her.
“She’s able to put the exclamation point on her already exemplary career,” Williams said. “We have several incoming players who will be wearing the Coyote jersey for the first time, and to have her leadership to be able to help those people make the leap is just going to be huge.”