Free Transfers Revisited
John Granato: A&M story shows serious flaws with NCAA's transfer rules
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.
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.”
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.