Matt Jones is the online sports editor for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and Northwest Arkansas Newspapers. He and his wife live in Fayetteville.
Clarke released from Arkansas
Arkansas guard Rotnei Clarke made a second request to be released from his scholarship but told CBSSports.com that Razorbacks Coach Mike Anderson would not grant it.
FAYETTEVILLE Disgruntled guard Rotnei Clarke has been granted a release from his scholarship at Arkansas, the school announced in a press release Monday.
Clarke, who told CBSSports.com last week he was being denied a request to transfer, has twice led the Razorbacks in scoring and will transfer with only one year of eligibility remaining.
“Upon receiving a written request and meeting with him today, as part of our review process, it is clear to me that it is in the best interests of everyone for Rotnei to continue his academic and athletic career elsewhere,” Arkansas athletics director Jeff Long said in a release. “We wish him well and hope that he finds what he is searching for at a new institution.”
Speaking for the first time publicly since John Pelphrey was fired and Mike Anderson was hired by the school in March, Clarke told CBSSports.com last week he didn’t feel he was a fit for Anderson’s style of play.
“I have spent the last couple of months getting to know Coach Anderson, his staff and his system,” Clarke said. “And I still feel as though it’s best for me to finish my career somewhere else.”
Clarke first requested his release following Pelphrey’s firing, but was asked by Long to reconsider until a new coach was hired. Anderson said in April he expected Clarke to return for his senior season, saying Clarke had a “peace and wants to have a special year, and he wants to do it in a Razorback uniform.”
Arkansas has since cut ties with two players from last season’s roster in forward Glenn Bryant and guard Jeff Peterson, both of whom were given scholarship releases earlier this month. Bryant has since transferred to Eastern Michigan, while Peterson, who graduated in May with a year of eligibility remaining, is expected to transfer as well.
“I love the school and the fans,” Clarke told CBSSports.com. “But I just don’t feel as though it’s the best fit for me basketball-wise – and it’s tough watching guys like Jeff and Glenn be able to go somewhere else, where I’m not able to.”
Anderson said Clarke recently asked for another release from the program.
“Recently, Rotnei informed me of his intent to leave the University of Arkansas,” Anderson said in a release. “At that time, I informed him that he would need to speak with the athletic director regarding his request. I then recommended to Jeff Long that we grant him a release to allow him to speak to other schools.
“We will continue to build our program with student-athletes who are committed on and off the court to being Razorbacks. That is how this program was built, with guys who are dedicated to the hard work, pride and passion it requires to be a part of the championship tradition of Razorback Basketball.
“I wish Rotnei Clarke the best as he moves on.”
Clarke started all 31 games for the Razorbacks last season, averaging a team-high 15.2 points per game. He was one of the Southeastern Conference’s leading 3-point shooters, connecting on 91 attempts as a junior, and he was twice named the league’s player of the week.
Clarke is second in school history with 275 made 3-pointers and might have reached Pat Bradley’s record of 366 next season. He also holds the school’s single-game scoring record with 51 points against Alcorn State in 2009.
Clarke’s departure, along with Bryant’s, will hurt the school’s Academic Progress Rate score for the next reporting period. Peterson’s departure will not affect the APR since he had graduated.
Arkansas was given a “historic penalty” by the NCAA last month, losing one scholarship for one season because of repeated low APR scores.
The guard had reportedly been unhappy with the program multiple times throughout his career. A local TV station reported he was considering transferring following his sophomore season in 2009-10, though Clarke later refuted the report through the university’s media relations department, saying he was happy at Arkansas.
Clarke’s departure leaves the Razorbacks with only 10 qualified scholarship players for next season. Four of Arkansas’ five signees have qualified, with the eligibility of the fifth – Little Rock Parkview forward Aaron Ross – in doubt pending an ACT score.
Because of the lack of scholarship players, Arkansas is expected to take the NCAA penalty limiting scholarships in the 2011-12 season instead of deferring to the following year.
Clarke isn’t the only member of his family to request a release from Arkansas this spring. His younger sister, Cassie, was released from her scholarship with the Razorbacks volleyball program last month and has transferred to Saint Louis University.