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.  





 

Most Popular

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome

Listen Live

Texans vs. Vikings could have fans in attendance. Photo by Jim Rogash/Getty Images

The Houston Texans say it's time that fans were allowed to cheer on the home team at NRG Stadium. On Thursday, the team announced extensive safety protocols that would put 15,000 fans in the stands for the Week 4 game against the Minnesota Vikings on Oct. 4.

While the Texans are awaiting permission from city and county officials to host a limited number of fans - socially distant and wearing masks – no plans have been announced how much tickets will cost, and who'll have the opportunity to buy them.

You have to love the free enterprise system: hundreds of tickets for the Oct. 4 game already are on sale on secondary market websites. Lower bowl tickets are going for $800 and up. If you don't mind sitting in the nose bleeds, tickets can be had for around $250.

So the question becomes, if you had the chance, would you attend the Texans game in early October? The tickets are big bucks, and there is a whammy – COVID-19. While the rate of COVID-19 infections is on the decline in Houston, the virus remains a major factor in our daily lives, and there's no guarantee that the pandemic won't spike here again.

Here's the rub, at least for me. Of all the sports we have in Houston, a Texans game might be lowest on my wish list of attending in person. Television does NFL games the best. There are dozens of cameras, so when a receiver catches a pass on the sidelines, we get several views, in slow motion even, to see if the receiver's feet were in bounds. We can almost feel the crunch of a quarterback sack. We get highlights of other games. You don't have to sit next to a face painter like David Puddy.

The NFL is a made-for-TV production. Which is, I suspect, part of the reason the Texans rarely open the roof at NRG Stadium. With the roof closed, the field becomes a controlled TV studio, with no worries of weather pranks.

Television doesn't do basketball or baseball nearly as well. Conversely, the experience of attending those games is terrific fun. What beats eating a couple of dogs at an Astros game? Is there even a traditional food at NFL or NBA games?

The Texans promise that strict safety rules will be enforced. And I believe them. Fans will be scattered over the 67,000-seat stadium. I'm not sure how much of a home field advantage that will be. Most of the crowd noise will come from pre-recorded tapes.

Here's one worry. Sure fans will sit apart and socially distanced. But what will happen when the game is over? Will fans file out in orderly, non-contagious single file? I flew Southwest a few weeks ago. The airline makes a big deal – we don't sell the middle seat. Passengers kept their distance during the flight. When the landed, you know how it is, everybody got up and piled into the aisle, shoulder to shoulder for several minutes.

What will happen if some goofball takes off his/her mask during the Texans game? Will there be enough security to handle each case?

Baseball is planning to have some fans attend post-season games at Minute Maid Park next month. UH Cougars, the Dynamo and Dash are playing in front of small crowds. It remains to be seen how safe – or how risky – allowing fans at sports events will be.

Will parents let their kids attend? Is waiting for a vaccine the smart play? If President Trump is right, that could be only a matter of weeks away. If scientists and doctors are right, nestle in for pandemic life another year. Even if scientists do come up with a vaccine, how many Americans will roll up their sleeve? Some believe, in the case of COVID-19, the cure may be worse than the disease. Not me, the moment Dr. Fauci says the vaccine is safe and effective, I'm sprinting to CVS.

The thinnest of silver linings, if ever there was a year worth sitting out, 2020 has been it for Houston sports fans. The Astros are scratching to stay above .500 (their present position), Jose Altuve hasn't had an extra base hit or RBI in almost a month, and Justin Verlander is throwing bullpens on his way to recovery. The Rockets are searching for a new coach, and possibly another team willing to take Russell Westbrook in a trade. The Texans season could go either way, we'll know if a few short weeks.

Why the rush to fill stadiums? The NBA is thriving in a bubble. Why not baseball and football? There's a fine line between safe and sorry.

The Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo already has safety plans for next year, including masks and distancing. That will be interesting. Good luck controlling crowds pushing and shoving for corn dogs and funnel cakes.

SportsMap Emails
Are Awesome