NCAA ruling denies Littlefield a second season at UNC

By R.L. Bynum

The NCAA has a way of making plenty of head-scratching decisions and, unfortunately, the latest has ended the Carolina playing career of last season’s starting point guard on the women’s basketball team.

Carlie Littlefield transferred to UNC after earning an undergraduate degree at Princeton. Like other players who were at Ivy League schools during the 2020–21 season, she won’t get an extra year of eligibility like most athletes since the entire conference decided not to play basketball that season.

Littlefield and others had appealed to the NCAA but were denied Wednesday, thus ending her Carolina career after one season. She started all 32 games, averaging 8.8 points and 3.9 rebounds per game and providing veteran leadership on and off the court.

On Twitter, Coach Courtney Banghart called the decision “an unacceptable outcome.”

“We tell our [student-athletes] to lead from the front in doing what’s right,” she wrote. “Yet when [the] Ivy League [and the] NCAA had the chance, where were they? These truest of truest of true [student-athletes] deserved better.”

ESPN analyst Jay Bilas, a noted NCAA critic, blasted the decision on Twitter.

“Can anyone provide a reasonable explanation for the NCAA denying Ivy athletes this? This makes no sense,” he wrote.

The NCAA’s rationale for giving players an extra season of eligibility is to make up for what they missed during that season when there were no fans and they were confined to bubbles. Ivy League athletes also missed out on a season but the NCAA seems to have decided that since there wasn’t a season, they didn’t miss out on anything.

It was heart-breaking news for Littlefield and Banghart, who also coached her while at Princeton.

Littlefield went through senior day activities while still hoping for another season. That day she talked about how she was devastated when Banghart left Princeton for UNC but was happy to get another chance to play for her.

Littlefield and Eva Hodgson, who earned an undergraduate degree from William & Mary, both entered the two-year Kenan-Flagler Business School MBA program this school year.

Hodgson can continue her career next season because the Tribe played in the 2020–21 season even though she opted out of playing that year.

Unfortunately for Littlefield, that’s not an option.

That roster spot creates an opening, though, if Banghart decides to dip into the transfer portal, which includes nearly 1,100 players.

Projected 2022-23 roster

Class Player Pos. Hgt
Fr.Paula ParisPG5–7
RS Fr.Kayla McPhersonPG5–7
RS Sr.Eva HodgsonPG5–9
Jr.Deja KellyG5–8
Jr.Kennedy Todd-WilliamsG5–11
Soph.Morasha WigginsW6–0
Jr.Alyssa UstbyW6–1
RS Sr.Ariel YoungW6–1
Jr.Anya PooleF6–2
Soph.Destiny AdamsF6–3
RS Fr.Teonni KeyF6–3
Sr.Malu TshitengeF6–3
Jr.Alexandra ZelayaF6–4

Photo courtesy of UNC Athletics Communications

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