Monday, April 27, 2009

NCAA Transfer Rule Lacks Equality And Common Sense

It seems as though when most people talk about the NCAA, it's always to dog them about something. And for the most part, I don't blame those who call out the all-powerful governing body for collegiate sports. The criticism is oftentimes deserved.

I am not trying to suggest, however, that everything the NCAA does is worthy of scrutiny, but I do believe that its decisions/rules gain so much negative attention sometimes because they often lack common sense or because one decision will seem to contradict another one.

A perfect example is the transfer rule.

According to the NCAA, a transfer from a four-year school to another four-year school is required to sit out a full academic year unless they qualify for an exception. A one-time transfer exception is the most common exception that allows a transfer to play right away. But here's the kicker: the rule DOES NOT apply to Division I football, basketball, baseball or men's ice hockey.

How jacked up is that? So you mean to tell me if Gina the gymnast or Steve the swimmer decide that after a year or two that they had rather compete at a school closer to home or discover that they simply don't get along very well with their coach, that they can compete at another school the very next year just as long as they receive a transfer waiver? Where is the equality in that rule?

The NCAA says the general transfer rule is grounded in the importance of students becoming academically acclimated to their new environment before competing.

Sounds like to me that the education of some student-athletes is more of a concern than others.

The whole idea of the transfer rule popped in my mind recently when I was thinking about all the UK players who will likely leave school now that John Calipari is the new coach. It makes perfect sense and it happens all the time. Calipari did not even recruit most of the kids on Kentucky's current roster. So why force him on them and vice versa? Just like coaches have the ability to leave one program for another, often without penalty, the same should be true for student-athletes.

In his most recent UK Basketball notebook in the Lexington Herald-Leader, Jerry Tipton shared an e-mail he received from NCAA Spokesman Erik Christianson.

"The prohibition on men’s basketball using the one-time transfer exception is centered not only on students becoming academically acclimated but also eliminating any potential ‘free-agent’ market in that sport given its intense recruiting and competitive nature," Christianson wrote.

I understand the point Christianson is making, and I can see where such a rule may have merits. Coaches don't want other coaches trying to raid their rosters every year. However, I believe that if a program fires the coach who recruited the current players and replaces him with someone from another program, then those players should have the freedom to transfer to any school they want and play immediately, especially when you consider that some of those kids are being asked to leave the program anyway.

Why should they be punished if they aren't the ones trying to skip town? Isn't it bad enough that they are being told that they are no longer wanted? But on top of that, you want to tell them that not only can they not play at their current school, but they have sit out a year at their new school too?

Another transfer situation made headlines recently, when Duke point guard Greg Paulus announced that he was considering leaving Durham to play quarterback at Michigan or some other school.

Here is the NCAA's statement regarding that specific case.

"Mr. Paulus has expressed an interest in competing in a second sport at another Division I school after earning an undergraduate degree at Duke University and competing on the men’s basketball team. The NCAA encourages and applauds academic achievement and realizes this is an unique situation and opportunity for Mr. Paulus. Student-athletes seldom have the opportunity to transfer late in their college careers and compete in a second sport after four seasons of competition. The NCAA established a "students first" waiver process to address unique situations and extenuating circumstances such as this that are not outlined in our rules.

If a student-athlete wants to transfer and immediately compete as a graduate student, the college or university they are transferring to would need to seek a waiver, because in most cases they would have to sit out a year before competing under NCAA transfer rules and would not have any remaining eligibility. One of the factors our members have determined is appropriate for a graduate student waiver is if the transfer is academically motivated."

I don't know Paulus personally, nor have I ever even met him, but I seriously doubt this move is "academically motivated." The only talk I've heard about his situation is that he wanted to play football, and plus, the last time I checked, Duke was a pretty damn good school.

Now, don't get me wrong, I don't care if this kid wants to transfer to another school. Good for him. But don't insult my intelligence by saying this decision is "academically motivated." If it were truly all about his education, he wouldn't be trying to play any sport.

And if the "students first" waiver applies to Paulus, why doesn't it apply to the basketball players at Kentucky, who are being told their services are no longer needed? Paulus decided to leave school to pursue other interests. Some of the UK players did not have a choice.

And while their situation may not be unique, it certainly involves extenuating circumstances. If the NCAA can't recognize that reality, it deserves every bit of criticism it receives.


Anonymous said...

Good article on the merits of the transfer rule. Here is another rule that defies any rational explanation. If an NBA Team provided any moneys to a college player, that player would be immediately disqualified and likely the school he attended severely punished. However, it is common practice for a MLB team to provide 6 figure sums for future baseball players while in college, even when that player chooses to play football or basketball. Now how ridiculously unfair is that? I'm askin'

Johnathon T Davis said...

Hi Mike, long time listener, first time caller. Glad to see you're doing well after moving to the big city. I'm waiting for the day when a 5 star recruit sues the NCAA for unfair labor practices. I have a 6"5" 7th grader who might take after the old man, and it used to be joke among the guys at work that my kid should forgo his junior year of high school and declare for the draft. Thats not so funny any more...

Anonymous said...

The notion that this rule is necessary to allow the student athlete to become acclimated to his new environment ceased to have any meaning whatsover in the wake of freshman eligibility. As you said, a rule the that has no common sense support.