OMAHA, Neb. — The NCAA awarded Creighton's Grant Gibbs a sixth season of eligibility on Tuesday — a decision that could end up costing coach Greg McDermott tens of thousands of dollars.
That's because McDermott's son — two-time first-team All-American Doug McDermott — probably will have to play his final season as a walk-on to free up a scholarship for Gibbs.
Greg McDermott said Doug will become a walk-on if all 13 scholarship players show up for the first day of classes Aug. 21. The coach, whose salary is not disclosed by the private school, is entering his fourth season at Creighton. As a university employee, he would qualify for a tuition discount for his children if he were at the school for five years.
Full price for tuition, room and board is $44,000, according to Creighton's website.
"I have the flexibility to do that," Greg McDermott said of making his son a walk-on, "and obviously to bring Grant back is certainly worth that."
The return of Gibbs strengthens the Bluejays for their first season in the Big East. The 6-foot-5 guard led the Missouri Valley Conference in assists each of the last two seasons. Creighton is 57-14 and reached the NCAA tournament twice with Gibbs in the lineup.
Doug McDermott had been projected to be a late first- or early second-round pick in the NBA draft before he announced in April that he would return to Creighton for his senior year. He's now playing for Team USA in the World University Games and will be a leading contender for preseason Big East player of the year.
Gibbs, a close friend of Doug McDermott, joked that it will be entertaining to see his buddy live the life of a walk-on next season.
"He's going to be carrying bags and doing all that kind of stuff," a smiling Gibbs said. "He'll have to handle that. That'll be a different situation for him. I think he'll probably be the best walk-on in America. We'll see."
Doug McDermott sent a congratulatory text to Gibbs from Turkey on Tuesday morning. The gist of the message: "We're getting the band back together," Gibbs said.
Gibbs averaged 8.5 points, 5.8 assists and 4.1 rebounds last season and joined Syracuse's Michael Carter-Williams as the nation's only players with at least 300 points, 200 assists and 145 rebounds.
Gibbs said he's excited to play in the Big East, which will be his third conference. He was in the West Coast Conference when he was at Gonzaga. He's been working out with teammates while waiting for the NCAA's decision on his petition.
Greg McDermott said Creighton argued that Gibbs merited an extra year because of a knee injury at Gonzaga that carried over to Creighton.
He hurt his knee after Christmas of his second year at Gonzaga and was bothered by it the rest of the season. He had surgery in Spokane, Wash., before he decided to transfer. He didn't recover adequately and required major surgery the month before he was to begin the year he was required to sit out at Creighton. He wasn't able to practice during his transfer year.
"The NCAA just felt that whether he was at Gonzaga or whether he was at Creighton, he wasn't going to be able to play that year because of his knee injury," Greg McDermott said.
The coach said he didn't even have Gibbs penciled in on his 2013-14 roster and was ecstatic and pleasantly surprised when he got word of the NCAA's decision.
He said it was heartening for the NCAA to rule in favor of the athlete.
"We tend to hear the stories of where they don't, and those (get) a lot of national attention," he said. "This is kind of a feel-good story where they did right by the student-athlete."