NCAA rules limit how much input coaches have in their players’ living arrangements.
That, in part, led to the Missouri men’s basketball team finding itself in the spotlight again for the wrong reasons Feb. 5. Sophomore forward Jakeenan Gant and junior forward Russell Woods were suspended from the team after a search of their apartment — triggered by police suspicion of one of their other two roommates — found drug paraphernalia in the MU players’ rooms.
While Missouri coach Kim Anderson encourages his players to live together, Gant and Woods were randomly assigned two roommates, neither of whom are Mizzou athletes, by their apartment complex before the school year.
“Coaches and staff members can provide information regarding off-campus housing options and make recommendations on where a student-athlete should live and who they should live with,” MU senior associate athletic director for strategic communications Ryan Bradley said. “However, per NCAA rules, coaches and staff are not allowed to arrange off-campus housing for student-athletes or dictate who they live with.”
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Under Anderson, players are encouraged to live together and advised of apartment complexes where former student-athletes have had good living experiences. That policy isn’t much of a change from past Tigers coaching regimes.
Current Arkansas and former Missouri coach Mike Anderson asked his players to live together at Campus View Apartments. It wasn’t mandatory, but no players chose to challenge the policy, a source told The Star.
During his tenure with the Tigers, Tulsa coach Frank Haith also strongly encouraged his players to live with one another and, if there were an odd number of occupants, recommended that those vacancies be filled with team managers or student-athletes from other sports. He also vetted the apartment complexes to make sure they were safe and close to campus, which ensured student-athletes wouldn’t have travel issues getting to campus for class and practice.
Kim Anderson continues to recommend many of the same apartment complexes, but Gant and Woods’ roommate arrangements fell through and they had to be assigned roommates by The Pointe at Rock Quarry Park apartment complex.
Gant and Woods were cited for possession of drug paraphernalia stemming from the execution of a search warrant Jan. 15 at their apartment, which they share with Koran Ward and Jarrett Thomas. Ward was the suspect in an armed home invasion robbery Dec. 9 in Columbia. Gant and Woods weren’t implicated in the robbery, but Columbia police detectives found marijuana smoking devices in both players’ rooms during the search.
“That’s always a problem with college, where do you live and who do you live with?” Anderson said during a news conference in February. “I don’t think they (Gant and Woods) knew these guys. I’m sure they do now, because they live with them. That’s something (player housing) that we always try to work out better. Obviously, we didn’t know this or we would’ve encouraged them not to live with them.”
Gant and Woods were reinstated after missing the Tigers’ road loss Feb. 6 at Alabama.
Many schools, including Mizzou, mandate that freshmen live in an on-campus dormitory for their first year, then allow them to move off campus. Programs such as Kansas and Kentucky, which have built multimillion-dollar basketball dorms, keep players on-campus through their college careers.
The issue isn’t limited to basketball and often puts the onus on the players to make smart decisions.
“It comes down to knowing yourself and knowing the people you are surrounding yourself with,” said former Missouri safety Ian Simon, a three-year starter who is now training for the NFL draft in Dallas. “I surrounded myself with the right people — like-minded guys like Shane (Ray), Sheldon (Richardson), Bud (Sasser), Jimmie (Hunt), David Johnson — when I was at Mizzou. I surrounded myself with good guys who were working hard and trying to achieve what they wanted to and everything fell into place, because we were all aiming toward the same thing.”
Simon said the Tigers’ football coaches never talked to him about his housing situation, but he knew other players who did meet with coaches about their living arrangements.
“Where you stay at is pretty much all you until it becomes a problem,” Simon said. “That’s when they might start suggesting, ‘Maybe you guys should live together,’ or ‘You guys need to think about moving.’ Unless there’s a problem, the coaches stay out of it and let you live your life.”