College athletics used to be about the athlete. They used to be about giving athletes a chance to compete at a higher level and get an education. But not anymore. They have gone from being about the athlete to being about the college. It is no longer about helping kids become a better version of themselves. It is about the school winning a national championship and generating more revenue than the next guy.
To do so, they have to recruit the best of the best players the nation’s high schools have to offer. Universities will spend millions to accomplish this task. They will do whatever it takes to convince a player his skill set meshes perfectly with the team’s current philosophy. They will convince him that he can be the college star and maybe even turn pro. He will certainly get an opportunity to display his skill set to professional teams.
So, he signs. He joins the team, redshirts, and pays his dues as a freshman and sophomore. Then comes his junior season. Finally, he is going to get the shot he’s been dreaming about since he was a little kid. He is ready to show the world what he can do.
But then the head coach takes a job at a different school and takes most of the staff with him. The new head coach and his staff prefer to play a style of game that his skills are not suited for. The player is now left with a dilemma.
Does he stay the course, try to learn the new system, and do his best? Or does he transfer to another school, lose a full season of eligibility, and hope that he can prove his worth to the pro scouts in his final season of eligibility?
It’s a big risk, no matter how you look at it. It is also an unfair position for a 20-year old kid to be put in. He trusted an adult who sold him on the merits of the school and the program. He put in the work that he needed to put in. But since that adult he trusted decided to pursue a different opportunity (and could easily do so), his career is at a crossroads before it gets off the ground.
Is that fair?
As the rules currently stand, a player must lose a year of eligibility if he transfers. If he graduates first, then he can transfer without losing a season. But the only thing holding a coach back is his buyout clause. Their new employer will gladly pay it if they want him bad enough.
Again— is that fair?
Before we talk about allowing open and easy transfers, it is important to consider what could happen if transfer rules are changed. Yes, there will be some who transfer for the right reasons. But at the same time, there will be some who do so because they want to be closer to a girl, they think their coach is mean, or because they got into an argument with someone.
Petty? Yes, but many people are.
It also increases the chances of a scandal. Even if the NCAA were to make rules against contacting players on another team, coaches would figure out how to do it. We will see coaches stealing players from a rival team or competitor. Do we really want to see Alabama lose in the championship game because the defensive line for some odd reason decided to transfer as a group to Clemson?
Scandals will happen and wins will be vacated. Then the current players who had nothing to do with the scandalous behavior will pay the price. One possible resolution to the whole mess would be to chalk it up to the old saying– sometimes life isn’t fair.
While that is true, there is no reason why we can’t do our best to tip the scales towards fairness. According to an ESPN report, the NCAA is considering a rule change that would allow student-athletes to be immediately eligible. But they would have to meet certain academic benchmarks before they transfer.
What those benchmarks are have yet to be determined, but they wouldn’t be easy. Whatever they are would likely be something that would force student-athletes to take the ‘student’ part more seriously. Since they are attending institutes of higher learning (not NFL factories), that can only be a good thing.
Should the rule get passed, the ability to recruit players on other teams would have to be tightly monitored.
And we must seriously ask ourselves, do we really want reporters asking Nick Saban if he thinks Lane Kiffin is trying to steal players from him? Okay—Saban’s response would probably be hilarious, but do we want that kind of scenario to happen?
At the same time, should we not allow the Baker Mayfield’s, Davis Webb’s and Kenny Hill’s of the world a chance to play because they signed with the wrong team out of high school?
The rules need tweaking. However, whether the NCAA will and open the door for the potential risks remains to be seen.