After finishing her freshman season on the Texas-Arlington women’s basketball team, Wichita native Ericka Mattingly decided she wanted to be closer to home.
But that plan has been muddled by UTA coach Krista Gerlich’s decision to block Mattingly’s “permission to contact” nearby Division I programs Wichita State, Tulsa, and Oral Roberts. Mattingly appealed the decision and presented her case in front of a panel of UTA administrators with no success earlier this month.
Mattingly, a 2016 South graduate who was part of four straight Class 6A championship teams, still has options — such as playing for a community college or a Division II program — but the process has left her wondering why she doesn’t have all options available.
“It’s super frustrating because I want to reach my highest potential closer to home and them not releasing me to those schools doesn’t allow me to reach my potential,” Mattingly said. “All it’s done is stress me out.”
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Texas-Arlington athletic director Jim Baker declined to specify why UTA, which plays in the Sun Belt Conference, would block schools outside of its conference.
Mattingly said Gerlich’s argument in the appeals process was that Wichita State, Tulsa, and Oral Roberts were “mid-major competition.” According to Mattingly, higher-profile Division I programs such as Kansas, Kansas State, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State aren’t blocked.
“It would not be appropriate for UTA to discuss the details surrounding Ericka Mattingly’s decision to transfer to another institution, other than to confirm that the University followed protocols established by the NCAA and that process has concluded,” Baker wrote in an e-mail.
By all performance measures, Mattingly’s first season at UTA was a success: the team won 22 games and made the conference championship game, while she started 30 games and led the team in assists. Mattingly was sure to be part of the team’s foundation the next three years.
But when Mattingly decided to transfer, Charisse Urban, Mattingly’s mother, was shocked to learn just how much control the school and the coach have over the athlete.
“This is a 19-year-old kid who is still trying to find her way and all she wants to do is come home,” Urban said. “It’s crazy to me how much control they have over the athlete. I know she signed with them and any coach would be upset about losing one of their top recruits, but you can’t deny a kid going home based on emotion in my opinion.”
Mattingly said she didn’t decide to transfer from Texas-Arlington with one school in mind, but she would have liked to keep playing at the Division I level close to home.
She can still transfer to a Division I after playing her sophomore season at a community college or Division II program or she can enroll at a Division I and pay tuition for the first year before regaining her eligibility the following year.
“Why wouldn’t you let a kid be closer to home if they wanted to?” Mattingly said. “They’re making it difficult for me and it definitely seems like they’re trying to get payback.”