TULSA — Taylor Cooper believes every life experience can be worth something positive, including her frustrating battle for a release from the Oral Roberts women's basketball team.
“For me, this is just a learning experience,” Cooper said in a telephone interview. “I'm just ready to get it all over with and figure out where I'm gonna be next year.”
Cooper, who just completed her true freshman season with the Golden Eagles, requested a release to transfer to another NCAA Division I program, but ORU denied the release. She hopes Oral Roberts will reverse the decision at Thursday morning's appeals hearing.
The 6-foot forward started all 31 games last season, averaging 10.4 points and 5.3 rebounds per game. ORU won the Southland Conference Tournament and lost 83-62 to Tennessee in the NCAA Tournament's first round.
“The university isn't what I thought it would be, school-wise and athletics-wise,” Cooper said. “I just don't think it's in my best interest to stay here. That's why I made my decision to leave.”
Cooper ended her prolific high-school playing career with back-to-back state championships. As a junior, she led Bethel to the Class 3A title before moving to Shawnee, where she helped the Wolves claim the 2012 Class 5A championship. After her senior season, Cooper was named to The Oklahoman's Super 5 team.
In its official student-athlete handbook, Oral Roberts details a transfer release policy, which states, “The position of the Oral Roberts University Athletic Department is to not grant student-athletes a release regarding a transfer to another institution. General releases will not be granted. Each release request will be reviewed on a case-by-case and institution-by-institution basis to determine if extenuating circumstances warrant a release.”
The student-athlete handbook goes on to describe the procedure by which ORU evaluates release requests. The policy explicitly states that a committee will consider factors including “The effect of the release on that particular athletic program and the Athletic Department and University as a whole,” and, “The ability to find a replacement with comparable skills and playing position.”
Cooper said she was confused when her release request was denied because two other women's basketball players — redshirt freshman forward Emma Gade and sophomore guard Elisabeth Daniels — were recently granted releases. Daniels has already signed with Oklahoma Baptist, an NAIA school in Shawnee.
“They said it wasn't best for the university or for the women's basketball team,” Cooper said when asked if she was given a reason for her denial. “That's all they said. They didn't go into detail about it.”
ORU spokesman Rob Walden declined to comment on the women's basketball transfers.