Free Transfers Revisited

John Granato: A&M story shows serious flaws with NCAA's transfer rules

Jimbo Fisher and his A&M staff are in the news. Andy Lyons/Getty Images

A while ago I wrote an article addressing the college transfer rule. The NCAA has been avoiding it for decades. It’s time to get back on that pulpit.

USA Today’s Dan Wolken wrote an article the other day about former Aggie linebacker Santino Marchiol who transferred to Arizona. In an attempt to not have to sit out a year Marchiol came forward with accusations about Jimbo Fisher’s program. Besides being unhappy about how the training staff handled his ankle injury he threw in a couple of stories about assistant coaches watching unauthorized workouts and giving cash to host unofficial recruiting visits.

This offseason the NCAA came up with this exception to the transfer rule to placate Ole Miss players who were disenchanted with the program due to sanctions for cheating: they would be able to play immediately at their new school if they were able to document “mitigating circumstances that are outside student-athlete’s control and directly impact the health, safety and well-being of the student athlete.”

It’s a great idea. If coaches are overzealous, cheat and get caught, why are innocent players punished for it? I never understood that. Good for you NCAA. You got it right.

But…

It also opened the door for a guy like Marchiol to come out and accuse his former team of misdeeds so he can play right away.

First of all, the only thing that impacts Marchiol’s health and well-being would be how the training staff at A&M handled his ankle injury. That’s arguable and will be looked into. The other accusations are headline grabbers and quite frankly weak ones. That coaches watch workouts and throw a few hundred at players to entertain recruits, while wrong, are a pimple on the ass of improprieties.

You want improprieties? Go to Penn State, Baylor, Michigan State or Ohio State. Now those are improprieties.

A&M will have to face the music and pay for its crimes as they should and we will all move on.

But this is only the tip of the iceberg. I talked to a former NCAA official and he says there will definitely be more of this coming. Players only get five years to play four. That year they have to sit when they transfer is valuable, valuable enough to turn in a rogue coaching staff. Here’s an idea. If you don’t want players to snitch on you for cheating, don’t cheat. Novel but pretty simple.

Every coach is on notice now. There are 100 or so potential whistleblowers out there roaming the sideline. “Don’t play me? Guess what. I’m transferring and calling the NCAA.”

I’m pretty sure this won’t sit well with the coaches. But their fight is more with their basketball counterparts than the NCAA. College basketball coaches have been the most adamant about the transfer rule remaining unchanged. With only five starters the bball coaches think they would have total anarchy on their hands if they allowed free transfers.

The only sports that make it penal to transfer are football, hockey, and men’s and women’s basketball. In all other sports the athletes can transfer and play immediately.

This football offseason the NCAA did address the other limitations that were put on the players. On top of sitting out a year, coaches had the ability to block players from transferring to certain schools. They can’t anymore. Now if a player wants to transfer he gives his name to the athletic director who puts it on a website for every coach to see. It’s more or less a waiver wire and it’s a move in the right direction. But it’s not enough.

Two other transfer solutions have been looked at. One was a player with a 2.8 can transfer anywhere and play right away. The thought being that someone with better grades will have a chance to transfer and still graduate which should be priority one in every decision they make. It was nixed because they thought there would be racial overtone backlash. They’re probably right. The ACT and SAT have been catching flak lately. The NCAA didn’t want any part of that.

The other option was that everyone gets one free transfer. Would this create anarchy? Maybe. But we’re asking 18-year olds to make lifelong irrevocable decisions when they choose their college. Wouldn’t it be great to get a mulligan? Not according to coaches.

But having a bunch of potential snitches waiting to pounce as soon as they transfer may be the impetus to change. I’m sure a coach would prefer the player getting that free pass rather than getting turned in and facing minor or major infractions.

If we get a few more snitches to come forward trying to get that free year we may see an emergency NCAA caucus calling for a free transfer policy “which has long been overdue for the student-athlete because after all,” they would say, “all we care about is doing what’s best for the student-athlete.”

Yeah right.

All the NCAA has ever cared about is bringing in that basketball tournament money.

The good news is that if their unintentional attempt to do the right thing for the Ole Miss players turns into all players having the freedom to transfer then so be it.

Even if it takes a few snitches to get it done.  





 

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A WEEKLY REVIEW OF CRENNEL'S COACHING

Now my job: Texans feast on Lions

Photo by Getty Images.

Thanksgiving is full of tradition. There's the typical family gathering, large meal, and of course, football. Sometimes, new traditions are added and old ones are retired. I think the Texans did both in their impressive 41-25 win over the Lions in Detroit. Old traditions were carried on (Lions losing on Thanksgiving), some were put to rest (Texans not being able to get turnovers), and new ones were started (multiple passing touchdowns by Deshaun Watson in six straight games).

The fact that this defense got three turnovers in the game was unbelievable! They got all three in the first quarter within the span of eight plays. JJ Watt's pick-six was insane. He went for a batted ball, ended up catching it, and ran it in. They forced Jonathan Williams to fumble on the Lions' very next play from scrimmage and recovered it. On the Lions' next possession, the Texans recovered yet another fumble after the challenge was reversed. Great call by the coaching staff to challenge and win. The defense looked good. Tyrell Adams stood out because he was in on those two fumbles, made 17 total tackles with 14 of them being solo tackles. They also brought pressure that seemed to make Matthew Stafford very inaccurate and resulted in four sacks. I give defensive coordinator Anthony Weaver credit for knowing he needs to blitz to get pressure, but the run defense has to improve.

The offense kept the tempo up in this game as well. The spread and hurry-up were used to keep the Lions already staggered defense off balance. Knowing the Lions were without a couple defensive backs, I thought it would be the perfect marriage of their defense and the Texans' offense. A buddy asked before the game about the line (Texans -3.5) and the over/under (52.5). I told him bet the Texans and the over because neither team can play defense and both have good quarterbacks. Offensive coordinator Tim Kelly put together another good game plan and Watson executed it flawlessly. One route combo I saw later on in the game I particularly enjoyed. Two receivers were tight to the left side. Cooks ran a hook/curl and settled in the middle of the zone while Fuller ran a vertical route. Duke Johnson ran a swing route to that same side. It left Cooks wide open as the attention went to Johnson in the flat, Fuller deep, and the action to the other play side. Route combos are important because it gives the quarterback different reads as he goes through his progressions and lets him pick apart the defense based on what he sees. Combine that with Watson's play and the way Kelly has changed his play calling now that he's liberated from he who shall not be named, we're seeing a beautiful thing.

As good as things were, there's still room for improvement. The defense gives up way too many easy yards, both run and pass. They can't get pressure bringing only four and will often give up big plays if the blitz is picked up. Plus the run defense is still an issue as evidenced by the Lions' first possession of the second half. The Lions ran the ball 10 plays straight for a total of 58 yards on that drive. Utterly ridiculous! Watson was good (17/25 318 yards and four touchdowns), but he missed two more touchdowns with passes slightly off, and continues to hold onto the ball too long at times. The difference between these two issues I've presented here is the fact that Watson has so played well, his "issues" are minor and very correctable, while the defense is terrible and there's no easy fix in sight. But let Romeo Crennel and Anthony Weaver tell it, they're getting the most out of these guys and they're playing disciplined.

The thought that this team may actually creep into the playoff picture may take shape better after next week if they can beat the Colts. I doubt it, but it is getting interesting. Let's see what else happens around them because they need help getting there.

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