Tom Lewis, Hank Gathers and Bo Kimble, USC’s three star freshman basketball players, were informed by a letter from Coach George Raveling Monday that their scholarships will not be renewed.
Scholarships are renewable on or before July 1 for any athlete.
Raveling had set last Friday as a deadline for Lewis, Kimble and Gathers to decide whether they wanted to stay at USC or transfer to another school.
Another freshman, Rich Grande, said earlier that he intended to remain at USC.
Raveling left for Iowa City last Thursday to sell his home. The freshmen reportedly had his phone number, or could have gotten it from his secretary.
Lewis met with Raveling a week ago. Gathers and Kimble didn’t meet with him until last Wednesday. Raveling has said, though, that he had told the freshmen that he wanted them to stay but needed to get an answer on their plans so he could plan for next year’s team. May 15 is the deadline for signing letters of intent, and Raveling reportedly didn’t want to have a hole in his squad if any of the freshmen decided to leave after that date.
It was also learned that Raveling has recommended to Athletic Director Mike McGee that junior forward Derrick Dowell’s scholarship be taken away, at least for the time being.
Dowell dropped his spring classes and has to make up 12 units in summer school to become eligible. If he does, his scholarship apparently is waiting for him.
Gathers said that Raveling’s letter was handed to him by a student manager. Lewis reportedly got his letter from an assistant coach while attending a class. Kimble had reportedly not been given the letter as of late Monday night.
The freshmen, who were regarded as part of the fourth-best recruiting class in the country last year, have the right to appeal their loss of scholarships to a financial aid board that is not made up by members of the athletic department.
Raveling had no comment on the matter when reached in Iowa City. But Gathers, a 6-7 power forward, seemed stunned.
“I’m confused and a little upset,” he said. “He set a deadline for me, Bo and Tom. But we hadn’t made up our minds by then. As for future plans, I don’t know what do.”
Told that he could appeal Raveling’s decision, Gathers said: “I’m still leaving that possibility open. But I don’t feel that he wants us here and I’m not going to stay in any place that I’m not wanted.”
Gathers said that he met with Raveling about a week and a half ago before Wednesday’s meeting. He also said that Kimble hadn’t met with Raveling before Wednesday.
“In the meeting he expressed to Bo and myself that he wanted us to stay,” Gathers said. “We told him that we had nothing against George or his assistant coaches, but it was just a gut reaction because we had been recruited by Coach Stan Morrison, and we had been looking for him and assistant Coach David Spencer to be there. But now that they weren’t, we had to consider some other things.”
Gathers said that after the Wednesday meeting he and Kimble went back in Raveling’s office to request that the deadline be extended until next Friday, but the request was not granted.
Here is the text of the letter that Raveling sent to the three freshmen:
“The 1985-86 academic year brought unprecedented changes to numerous college and university coaching staffs across the nation. The University of Southern California was counted among that number when I was appointed head basketball coach March 27, 1986.
“As a result, you and dozens of other student athletes have experienced feelings of uncertainty and some misgivings. This I view as an understandable circumstance. Upon my arrival you will recall that you voiced a concern about remaining as a member of the USC basketball team.
“I understand your position. It was my judgment then and I believe it was a good one that you deserved sufficient time to consider this most important decision without undue pressure.
“Nearly one month has now passed. On two separate occasions we have had opportunities to discuss topics of mutual concern, specifically the USC basketball program and how it will be shaped under my guidance. Those were meaningful discussions during which I also urged you to remain to contribute to USC. Further you were invited to contact me if additional questions arose. I assured you of my willingness to converse with you in person or by telephone.
“On April 21 when we last gathered again to discuss your status I was compelled to request that you render your decision about your status with the USC basketball program not later than April 25. Unfortunately that date has arrived and passed without communication from you. Frankly, I believe that 29 days is a reasonable amount of time time to reach such a decision. After careful consideration, I have recommended to the athletic director that your athletic grant in aid not be renewed for the 1986-87 academic year. I also want to inform you that you have a right to appeal the nonrenewal of your aid to appropriate USC officials. If you desire a release from USC to discuss transferring to another university or college, you may request a release from the athletic director, Michael McGee.
“Please understand this action is not done with malice, nor is it made with any level of elation. I have determined and rightfully so that the total USC program takes precedent at this time. The forthcoming season must proceed in a focused manner. Further delay can not be tolerated.
“We wish you success, good health and good fortune as you continue your college careers.”
A copy of the letter was sent to McGee and USC President James H. Zumberge.