Ron Patterson, pictured above at a Junior-Senior All-Star Game in 2011, did not realize anything was wrong with his academics until he was made aware of the faculty subcommittee's review, according to Chris Hawkins, his AAU coach.
Chris Hawkins didn’t need many words to sum up the reaction of Ron Patterson, his family and his inner circle to Wednesday’s news.
“Devastated. Hurt,” said Hawkins, Patterson’s long-time AAU coach. “It’s just shocking. I mean, you know, there’s not too many words you can use, as far as how the family feels, as far as how he feels.”
Patterson’s college career was put on hold before it ever truly began Wednesday, when he and his family learned that he had been denied admission to Indiana for the fall semester because he struggled with summer courses.
While academically eligible by the NCAA’s standards, Patterson did not meet Indiana’s admissions requirements coming out of Broad Ripple High School this spring. He was put into a faculty sponsorship program, which exists to help students who do not meet those standards raise their academic performance in college, thereby putting them on even footing with their classmates.
The faculty sponsorship program has existed since 1960, according to a Feb. 17, 2009, Indiana Daily Student article. It is often used to admit athletes and other students with specific talents — wunderkinds in the Jacobs School of Music, for example — who might not immediately meet academic standards but can still offer contributions to the university community at large.
But the article refers to potential changes in the faculty sponsorship system, which some within the university community were concerned bordered on being abused in recent years. One change that has since come to pass wound up costing Patterson.
Added only recently, there now exists an oversight mechanism within sponsorship programs, to ensure sponsors are closely tracking their students’ academic progress and responding accordingly.
In Patterson’s case, that oversight comes in the form of a subcommittee of the Faculty Athletics Committee, according to Kurt Zorn, faculty athletics representative and associate vice provost for undergraduate education. Zorn said the goal of the subcommittee is to evaluate each sponsorship candidate individually, to determine if they have a “good probability of academic success.”
It was Patterson (left) who first coined the term "The Movement," which became a label for Indiana's 2012 recruiting class and a slogan for Indiana's return to national prominence.
“We talk about cases where these student-athletes may need additional attention,” Zorn said, “or maybe they don’t look like they’re as good of candidates for academic success as we originally thought.”
Zorn could not speak specifically to any one case or student, per federal law. But the framework he outlined is the same one of which Patterson availed himself this summer.
The lanky, athletic guard arrived at IU under a faculty sponsorship, needing to bridge the gap between his academic performance in high school and what was required for admission at Indiana. Patterson worked through second summer session, and Hawkins said his family believed everything to be in order until Wednesday, when they heard the news.
“It was something that just happened,” Hawkins said. “He was good the first part of summer school, so this was something that wasn’t expected. Once it came, we had to deal with it. He’s got to learn from it.”
The subcommittee’s decision is both immediate and final. Patterson failed to make necessary academic progress in the summer. As such, his sponsorship was removed, and his admission was rescinded.
This turn of events, in a roundabout way, offers some relief to the men’s basketball program, which was facing a final deadline this weekend to cut loose one of its 14 scholarship players, to reach the NCAA limit of 13. But that didn’t alleviate the level of surprise and disappointment at Cook Hall either, according to Hawkins.
“They’re shocked. (The coaching staff) expected him to be there and do what he was supposed to do,” Hawkins said. “All I can do is just say they really wanted him there.”
A three-star prospect with a host of high-major offers, Patterson committed to Indiana exactly two years before Wednesday’s news. He was the second member of what would eventually become a five-man 2012 class, one of the nation’s best. And it was Patterson who coined the term “The Movement,” which eventually became a label for the class and an unofficial slogan for Indiana’s rebirth as a program.
Now Patterson, an Indiana Junior and Senior All-Star and the leading scorer in Broad Ripple history, is faced with a choice between prep school and finding another two- or four-year program that will take him this close to the start of the fall semester. (Since he was never a full-time student at IU, his five-year NCAA eligibility clock has not yet started, and thus prep school would not waste a year.)
Because he still met the minimum NCAA qualifications for eligibility out of high school, Patterson can transfer to another school, if he can find a program willing and able to take him at this late stage. At the moment though, Hawkins said the only interested party has been Brewster Academy, a prominent prep school in New Hampshire that is believed to have some previous interest in the player as well.
“Brewster is an option as far as a prep school,” Hawkins told InsideIndiana.com. “He really won’t talk to anybody or anything until (at least Thursday).”
There exists the possibility that Indiana could continue to recruit Patterson, if he goes to prep school. Both Zorn and other university sources confirmed to InsideIndiana.com Wednesday night that IU would have no problem readmitting Patterson in the future, even through a faculty sponsorship, provided his academic resume had improved.
But Hawkins also sees the reality within that possibility.
With four players committed in 2013 and just three guaranteed to come off scholarship after this season, Indiana already stands at its oversign limit. And the staff continues to pursue a number of targets in the rising senior class, including Beejay Anya, Marcus Lee and Semi Ojeleye.
Were Patterson or any prospect to become player No. 5 in the class, then someone would have to agree to wait until the spring signing period to ink and send their letter of intent, banking on there being room for them then.
Whatever his next move, Patterson has Indiana’s support, according to Hawkins, who said IU coach Tom Crean and his coaching staff have offered guidance in whatever capacity is necessary. Crean affirmed as much in a brief statement release Wednesday afternoon.
“We think very highly of Ron and will continue to work with him as allowed to help him reach his goals,” Crean said in the release. “He has the chance to do some special things for himself and his family, and we will be supportive of whatever he chooses to do.”