The man with the power to reverse the ruling won't back down on his controversial decision to bar a 2019 Rutgers recruit and potential McDonald's All-American from continuing her senior season of high school hoops, despite calls for clemency across the basketball world.
USA Basketball sent 18-year-old Maori Davenport a stipend for participating in the 2018 FIBA Americas U18 Championship. That's within the rules, but the check Davenport received - and returned - was for $857.20, beyond the Alabama High School Athletic Association's hard limit of $250. USA Basketball normally contacts each state association to make sure a player's stipend amount is within state limits, but it failed to do so in this case. When the organization discovered the mistake, it notified Davenport, her high school, and the AHSAA.
Steve Savarese, the executive director of the AHSAA, handed down a one-year suspension for the rule violation in November. He insists there is no wiggle room to rescind Davenport's punishment, and characterized it as a teaching moment.
"The lesson to be learned here is for the adults that have the responsibility to inform the student-athlete of the rules," Savarese told ESPN's Jay Bilas on Friday. "It is the responsibility of other parties, school officials, USA Basketball - who only had to make a phone call - and (Davenport's) mom, who is an assistant coach. She should know better. We work with outside agencies all the time. We work with Nike. All USA Basketball had to do was make a phone call.
"My charge is to uphold the rules. What if I said 'no'? What if I let her play? If I make an exception to one rule, it opens up a Pandora's box on all of our rules. How could I enforce any rule? If I made an exception here, I would be arbitrary and capricious."
Savarese is set to be inducted into the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame this April in honor of his career in sports administration. He confirmed to Bilas that he is the "absolute authority" on Davenport's discipline.