Arizona women’s basketball head coach Adia Barnes had been asked several times why her team didn’t have walk-ons if they were so short on players. Barnes gave her requirements for a walk-on at Arizona. First, they needed to be cultural fits. Second, they needed to understand their role. Third, they needed to be useful. UA track head coach Fred Harvey had someone who fit the bill in javelin thrower Erin Tack.
“I believe track reached out to us,” Barnes said. “I wouldn’t have known she played high school basketball because her last two years, one was COVID and one was her ACL. So, she didn’t play her last two years but both her parents played basketball.”
Barnes mentioned a couple of weeks ago that they could have a short tryout period with possible walk-ons. Tack joined the team after the Bahamas tournament. She was already on scholarship with the track team, but track is an equivalency sport. That means that most athletes don’t have full scholarships. After determining that Tack was going to be a good fit, Barnes gave her one of the four available scholarships that the basketball team was not using this season.
“We always assume a scholarship because the way our sports are,” Barnes said. “So, for us, she’s gonna get the cost of attendance in a month. So for her, it’s like a couple thousand dollars a month because we get really good cost of attendance. And I’m happy because she wants to do it. She loves basketball. She kind of got robbed her last couple of years. Think about an injury and COVID. That sucks.”
When Lauren Ware originally planned to play both basketball and volleyball, basketball provided the scholarship because it has 15 scholarships rather than the 12 available for volleyball. In the case of equivalency sports like track versus headcount sports like basketball, the financial aid is almost always far more significant. Most equivalency sport athletes have to find additional aid to attend school whether it’s academic-based aid or need-based aid.
“I did it last week and I just did it kind of fast because we had some people out,” Barnes said. “I was going to do it anyways. I was just gonna wait till the time period because there was no use to doing it now...for her school. She wasn’t gonna play right now. She was just learning the system, and then she was like just going in for finals. So I was gonna wait like another week, but then we had the concussion things. We were only gonna have seven players going to UNLV, so that was probably a good time to do it. And I talked to her coach and I did it for her. It’s good. I think it’s financially an opportunity.”
The fact that Tack had been recruited by an Arizona coaching staff also sold Barnes on making the addition and giving her a scholarship so quickly.
“You can’t just add anyone during the season,” Barnes said. “I know her coach personally. I’ve known Coach Harvey since I was 17 when I played. I respect and trust him. And it was someone who’s good. I know they’re a good person. I think you always worry—or you do always worry—as a coach about adding someone to your locker room who you don’t really know. Well, she’s already here and she’s a high-level athlete and she’s good. So I think bringing someone like that, it’s just safer because they understand the dynamics.”
Of course, it wouldn’t be the 2023-24 Wildcats if everything went smoothly. A few days ago, Tack was injured. The injury was in the same knee she had surgically repaired and there was fear that she had damaged her ACL again.
“I‘m going to actually physically go [to church] and say some more prayers in a different way,” Barnes joked. “It was off of a skill two days ago. She hurt her operated knee, the one with a knee brace, and has been out. She probably won’t be back for like another week, but it’s not an ACL...She got her MRI this morning.”