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On the small scale, the decision not to renew the scholarships of Luke Hager and Nate Anderson allowed Kevin Keatts to hasten the process of remaking the UNCW men's basketball roster to fit his system.
In the wider picture, the first-year coach's plan to renovate the Seahawks called to the forefront a central tenant in the national conversation on NCAA reform.
UNCW is, by NCAA rule, allowed to offer multi-year scholarships but chooses to put all its athletes on year-to-year renewal.
Athletic director Jimmy Bass said it's the first time in his four years a men's basketball scholarship hasn't been renewed, but he backed Keatts on the choice, provided Hager and Anderson had the opportunity to stay at the school.
Anderson will have to pay some tuition out of pocket to remain at UNCW and graduate next May, while Hager has transferred to Division II Hawaii Pacific, where he plans to play his final two seasons on scholarship.
"I think after (Keatts) had been here he had an opportunity to review the program and ... look and try to plot how scholarships were going to be used over the next few years," Bass said. "That wasn't something we discussed during his job interview or the first week he came back here. He was here on the ground and had some time to look at the program and get to know the kids and then he came with the recommendation."
How things got here
In October of 2011, the NCAA Division I board of directors made a rule giving individual schools the opportunity to provide multi-year scholarships. The decision was nearly vetoed just a few months later.
More than 60 percent of the 330 voting members - including UNCW - wanted to keep the one-year limit in place, but they fell two votes short of the required number of a five-eighths majority to reverse it.
The issue has become an increasing point of debate. On July 9, NCAA President Mark Emmert testified before a Senate committee that athletes should receive "scholarships for life."
Major conference schools, such as Southern California and Indiana, have recently pledged to make all scholarships guaranteed for four seasons of athletic eligibility.
UNCW's student-athlete handbook specifies the department does not issue multi-year scholarships and lays out the process for annual renewal, which mirrors NCAA guidelines. Athletes are notified in writing by July 1 whether a scholarship has been renewed for the following academic year.
If athletic financial aid is reduced or removed, athletes are offered the chance for a hearing before an appeals committee made up of three university representatives from outside the athletic department. Neither Anderson nor Hager opted to appeal.
Bass declined to reveal instances where financial aid has been reduced or not renewed with other UNCW teams, citing student privacy regulations.
It does happen, though. Women's basketball coach Adell Harris chose to not bring back three players who had eligibility for last season, leaving her team with one of the youngest and thinnest lineups in the country.
Commissioner Tom Yeager said none of the schools in the Colonial Athletic Association offer across-the-board multi-year guarantees, though there may be special cases. His office doesn't track individual instances where its members don't renew scholarships, but he thinks the current system is largely self-policing.
Athletes are often successful in the appeals process, and coaches know a history of broken promises will hurt on the recruiting trail.
"I think that schools will make their own decisions," Yeager said. "They're going to treat their student-athletes fairly. You're always going to have checks and balances to a certain extent."
UNCW enters new landscape
Keatts has declined to talk specifically about the decision to not bring back Hager and Anderson. The coach has simply characterized it as the right move for the program.
Hager took the high road when the news broke last month, but noted UNCW didn't return his loyalty.
He passed up the chance to transfer when the Seahawks were banned from the postseason for the 2012-13 season.
Bass said the recent rise in transfers nationally has created a new culture for players and coaches to navigate.
"How well I know that," Bass said. "We had a ton of transfers in the women's program that crippled it, too. That's the system in the NCAA. Luke has gone and made a good decision. He's got two more years of eligibility. He's going to a great school in a great location."
With the open scholarships, Keatts was able to add UNC-Charlotte transfers Marcus Bryan and Denzel Ingram to the roster. Both players - and fellow transfers Jarvis Haywood and Chris Flemmings - will sit out 2014-2015 per NCAA transfer rules.
"I think we filled some needs," Keatts said.
Anderson - who missed all of last season with a knee injury - didn't return to the team for summer workouts, and Hager was told he wouldn't be back midway through the first session of summer school.
Changes were inevitable as Keatts took over a team that has lost at least 20 games in five of the past six seasons.
Senior forward Cedrick Williams said he knew the new staff was evaluating the holdovers this spring and wasn't surprised the former Louisville assistant wanted to "bring in some of his guys."
Keatts didn't directly address his decision to move on without Hager and Anderson with the current players, according to Williams.
"He didn't have to," Williams said. "We all knew: It's part of the business."
Eric Detweiler: 343-2261
On Twitter: @edetweiler