“Free Big Z! Free Big Z! Free Big Z!” These were the chants heard all around the Commonwealth over the past couple of months for Kentucky basketball fans. Up until last Saturday, Jan. 20, 7’2” Croatian Freshman Zvonimir Isvišić (nicknamed “Big Z” by the fans), had yet to suit up for the Wildcats. Despite being on Kentucky’s campus for almost three full months, the big man had yet to receive official NCAA clearance for his eligibility waiver. And, as the weeks turned to months and the waiting continued impatience began to ensue between Big Blue Nation and the NCAA.
Fans, coaches and teammates all waited patiently for Big-Z to be ruled eligible. Everyone saw what he could do in practice and knew he could help the team, but they were powerless to get him on the court. According to Coach Cal, this contributed to a period of really bad depression for Isvišić, leading to him taking a short sabbatical back home to Croatia in December.
However, once Big Z returned to campus, the UK (and the BBN) began to get a little more aggressive with the NCAA. After three months, players, coaches, teammates, and fans deserved an answer.
On the university’s end, this meant follow-up communications with the executive body reviewing his paperwork, re-checking compliance documentation, and begging for expedition. However, several fans did not take this “passive” approach when they tapped into the fight.