Nearly year later, VMI won't release Elmores, who left to care for grandfather

ByJeff Goodman ESPN logo
Thursday, September 3, 2015

Nearly a year after leaving Virginia Military Institute to care for their ailing grandfather, basketball players Jon and Ot Elmore still haven't received their release from the school.

The Elmore brothers, who never played a game for VMI, told ESPN that they returned home to Charleston, West Virginia, and took turns sleeping on a couch to tend to their grandfather, Otmer Elmore -- who died months later from cancer.

"He basically raised us," said Ot Elmore, who was named after his grandfather.

Ot Elmore was a redshirt freshman who sat out his first season at VMI in order to play all four years with younger brother Jon, who left school in October 2014 -- a little more than a month after the fall semester began.

"My grandfather was sick," Jon Elmore said.

They asked for a release from the school, but the VMI administration did not comply. They were both denied a waiver from the school, and Jon Elmore also lost an appeal with the National Letter of Intent committee to try to gain back the year of eligibility he lost last year.

Jon Elmore eventually enrolled at Marshall in nearby Huntington, West Virginia, paying his own way and practicing with the team in the second semester. Ot Elmore chose to attend Texas Rio Grande Valley, where he also paid his own way the second semester and, like his brother, will have to do the same for the first semester of the 2015-16 year.

VMI's head coach at the time, Duggar Baucom, left after last season to become the head coach at the Citadel.

"As you know, both Elmore brothers were here and chose to leave VMI prior to last season," VMI athletic director Dave Diles said via a statement to ESPN. "They sought their release through the various avenues in the NCAA and NLI rules, and it was not granted. The various appeals also were not granted. We appreciate the history the family has as it pertains to VMI, and we continue to wish the Elmore family well as all parties move forward."

Diles declined to comment further on the matter to ESPN.

Gay Elmore, the father of both Jon and Ot, was a star for the Keydets in the mid-to-late 1980s. He was the school's all-time leading scorer until the mark was broken by Reggie Williams in 2008.

Tim DiPiero, a family friend and lawyer who is helping the Elmores, told ESPN that he was under the impression -- after several discussions with Diles -- that an agreement would be reached in which the family would pay $50,000 to compensate for scholarship money last year in return for the releases of both players. DiPiero told ESPN that weeks later VMI insisted it would grant the releases only if "made whole," and the figure then escalated to approximately $110,000.

"The family was willing to come up with $50,000," DiPiero said. "However, they could not afford $110,000."

If the school does not release the players, both will have just two years of college basketball eligibility remaining.

"I've known these kids since they were little and they have always dreamed of playing college basketball," DiPiero said. "It's a shame they are going to lose a year because once they heard their grandfather was terminally ill, they decided to go home and take care of ... him."