His lawyers have accused the NCAA of weaponizing waiver requests with inconsistent evaluations.
The NCAA denied Battle's initial waiver request to play after transferring in the spring from Montana State, his second school. Last month, the appeal West Virginia filed on his behalf -- players who transfer twice need a waiver to play immediately at their next school -- was also denied, months after the NCAA announced a more rigid list of guidelines for players seeking waivers. Those guidelines included proof that a transfer would enhance a player's mental health if it had been "impaired" at a previous school.
In his waiver request, Battle (17.7 points per game at Montana State in 2022-23) said his transfer to West Virginia was beneficial to his mental health, the byproduct of a traumatic stretch in recent years. Battle, one of the few Indigenous Division I basketball players, has also accused the NCAA of ignoring Native American communities.
The complaint alleges that Battle's name, image and likeness opportunities have been compromised by the waiver denial.
"For the reasons stated above, Plaintiff asks this Court to judge, hold, and declare that he has an economic right to market and license his name, image and likeness," stated the complaint filed on Battle's behalf in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of West Virginia by attorney Rocky Gianola. "For the reasons stated above, Plaintiff asks this Court to judge, hold, and declare that he has a right to attend West Virginia University. For the reasons stated above, Plaintiff asks this Court to judge, hold, and declare that he has a right to play on the varsity basketball team at West Virginia University. For the reasons stated above, Plaintiff asks this Court to judge, hold, and declare that he has a right to be treated fairly by the NCAA."
Other players in Battle's position have gained immediate eligibility via the legal process.
North Carolina receiver Tez Walker missed the first four games of the 2023 season after his waiver request had been denied. Walker had said he wanted to move closer to home due to his mental health. Following UNC's vocal criticism of the NCAA decision and the threat of a lawsuit, the NCAA made Walker eligible after discovering "new information."
Battle, who grew up on a reservation in Washington, said he left Montana State after former head coach Danny Sprinkle, a mentor who helped him with his mental health, took another job. He said West Virginia's Josh Eilert, the interim head coach who has also lived on a Native American reservation, plays that role for him with the Mountaineers.
"As part of his application and subsequent appeals, Plaintiff provided multiple pieces of evidence that his mental health conditions impaired Plaintiff's daily function at his previous school and necessitated his transfer to WVU," the complaint states. "However, the NCAA summarily denied Plaintiff's waiver for what can only be arbitrary and capricious reasons. Upon information and belief, the NCAA did not have any medical professional or other independent professional or expert evaluate Plaintiff's application."