June 14, 2012

Clearing Up Transfer Rules

Filed under: Basketball — Chas @ 11:56 am


Every April. After coaches have been fired and hired. Assistant coaches make a move. And otherwise coaches do what they can for their career and lifestyle, transfers are not far behind. Not that the two are always related. Players also transfer for personal reasons, playing time and personality conflicts.

This year, Pitt was on both ends of the player transfer. Khem Birch, left Pitt in December and ultimately transferred to UNLV. He has to sit until January, per NCAA transfer rules. Trey Zeigler has transferred to Pitt after the firing of his coach at Eastern Michigan. He was granted a waiver by the NCAA to play right away for Pitt because the aforementioned fired coach at Eastern Michigan was also his father — and that created a reason for the waiver.

The actual reason the NCAA granted the waiver is unknown. We assume that the NCAA decided (in part, with precedent) that Zeigler suffered an additional hardship because the he could have signed with high-major programs, but chose EMU to play for his father. Coupled with the awkwardness of having to play for a coach that replaced his father.

That’s part of the problem. We don’t actually know the reason since the NCAA never gives a reason to grant or deny waivers to play right away.

Apparently we don’t even know who makes the decisions.

But the NCAA continues to have the Wizard of Oz approach where there is someone behind the curtain who makes decisions. Yet, there are a number of committees, made up of member schools, that are involved in these decisions. They must have a public voice.

These committees can conduct their business in private, but once a decision is made, the NCAA needs to put out press releases on each one to explain why a waiver was granted or denied. There needs to be a name attached to the decision, representing the committee.

The NCAA continues to progress and make decisions quicker than it did in the past. But it has not done a quality job in sharing why some of these transfer decisions are made.

Which only feeds into some of the confusion on transfers. And as such, everyone who transfers now tries to file a waiver for immediate eligibility. Why? Why not? No one can say with any real certainty that the waiver won’t be granted if it is for anything more than leaving because the player wasn’t happy at the school. The NCAA seems to have gotten sensitive to how it was perceived with very strict interpretations of transferring, and has become a more lenient.

Another aspect to transfers every spring, the freak-out by others about how transferring is out of control these days. And ascribing the reason to “those darn kids today.”

“It’s an epidemic, without a doubt,” said [University of Virginia Coach Tony] Bennett. “I think players have always been anxious to play, I really do. But when they thought, ‘I don’t know if this is the right place,’ the advice was always ‘Wait your turn. Stay put.’ But the times of waiting and being patient, well, it’s a different time.”

“They don’t like their high school situation, they transfer. They aren’t happy with their AAU team, they transfer,” said ESPN senior recruiting analyst Dave Telep, who has covered the AAU scene for more than 15 years. “There’s so many opportunities for them to go to the next best thing that they’re never held accountable, they never fight through any adversity. And what do we expect when they get to college and things get rough? They do exactly what they’ve been taught to do: transfer.

“We see it on the floor. We see it in their play.”

The only epidemic is in the minds of the coaches. Men’s college basketball has a higher transfer rate than other college sports, but it turns out that the number of transfers has held relatively steady over the years.

…it is probably more interesting to examine whether there are more players transferring out of major programs than has occurred in the past. For simplicity, I decided to pull out the 75 programs that will compete in the Power Six leagues next year and see how their transfer patterns have looked historically:

Players leaving with eligibility left (excluding NBA draft early entrants)
2004: 174
2005: 197
2006: 185
2007: 192
2008: 160
2009: 137
2010: 203
2011: 165
2012: 113 (through April 30th)

I don’t believe that 2012 will be a historically low year for transfers. Instead, these numbers suggest to me that we don’t have the final number for 2012 yet. There will be more transfers throughout the summer. Many of these will happen for academic reasons or because of players doing foolish things (getting arrested), but I am confident that there will be more than 113 players leaving the Power Six conference teams by the time the summer is over.

On the other hand, keep in mind that only eight of the Power Six schools changed head coaches this year, the lowest rate of Power 6 coaching changes since 2009. And with so little coaching turnover, 2012 may well turn out to be more like 2009.

The other thing coaches pretend don’t contribute to the increased transfer rate is forcing out players. Credit to Maryland’s Mark Turgeon for at least admitting that part.

Even Turgeon concedes that players are more likely to transfer because “coaches today are in ‘win soon’ type deals, so I think they help push guys out the door — even though they’re not supposed to — by telling them they’re not going to play.”

Pitt under Dixon has done it a couple times. Rick Pitino at Louisville (and he did it at Kentucky as well) is a master of it — delicately couching it in wanting to let a good kid get the playing time they deserve.

The strong correlation between coaching changes and transfers is hard to ignore, yet most coaches want to blame the players.

When asked to compare the plight of college kids seeking something more — playing time, a more suitable system, a better situation, a school closer to home — coaches countered with a general stance that student-athletes aren’t in school to make a living. You can’t compare a coach’s decision to leave a program for a dream job with a college basketball player’s decision to transfer, they said.

“They’re kids. They’re there to get an education. We’re here to make a living,” said Minnesota’s Tubby Smith, who’s watched six players transfer since 2010. “We clothe them, we feed them, we house them, we educate them. It’s apples and oranges.”

The same Tubby Smith who for the last 10+ years at Kentucky and now Minnesota who gets millions each year. The same Smith who has happily taken plenty of transfers when he was trying to quickly rebuild Minnesota. The worst is the claim of investing in the kids. The argument Bo Ryan was pushing when Uthoff wanted to transfer. That the coaches and school have invested so much time and money in the player — just in recruiting him — that it isn’t fair to let him transfer. Plenty of other schools and coaches pursued and “invested” in going after Uthoff. They didn’t get him. It wasn’t like they get their time and money back.

The coaches are upset that they are getting more attention when they restrict a kid or try to stop the transfer. Now everyone knows what is happening. Worse, they get it used against them in recruiting. That they will screw over the players if there is a problem. There’s a reason why someone like Billy Donovan at Florida is savvy enough to be completely open to transfers going either way.

“I’ve never been a believer in holding a guy to his scholarship,” Donovan said. “I think you’ve got to give them the opportunity to go wherever they want to go. But, I also know there have been situations where people have been accused of tampering and there have been some people where some recruiting has gone on while a guy has been in school. Those things could potentially happen. I’ve always believed at Florida that when someone leaves you give them the opportunity to go wherever they want.”

Donovan has benefited and lost players so he actually has credibility to back his stance. He looks like less of a hypocrite and much more about wanting what is best for the kids rather than making his job easier.

This is generally how coaches and schools act. Wanting to make sure they have more control.

Then there is the excuse that the schools and programs don’t want to risk damage to their Academic Progress Rate (APR), when they won’t release a kid. It’s about the good of the program as a whole. At least when they don’t want the player to leave.

Even when the kids actually graduate, but have a year of eligibility left, coaches are now starting to agitate to eliminate the graduate exception because of the potential for “abuse.” How exactly it is abused? Apparently the prospect of any type of freedom for a player is “abuse.”

The post-grad exception rule has become more of a hot topic since Wisconsin benefited so greatly from the addition of Wilson as its quarterback this season. Wilson had received a bachelor’s degree at NC State and was able to play immediately for the Badgers this season. He has thrown for 16 touchdowns and ran for three more while helping Wisconsin (No. 15 BCS, No. 12 AP) to a 6-1 record.

“I think with the success the quarterback is having at Wisconsin I’m worried on whether this can get a little ugly down the road,” Izzo said. “I’m not a huge fan of it because I don’t think it’s totally fair. I try to understand that from a player’s standpoint. It’s a difficult one. I don’t have any responses from anyone about what you do about it.”

Weber also didn’t have answers, but he was just as concerned where it could lead.

“The things we talked in our meetings last spring is if it becomes a recruiting battle to ‘‘Let’s go find some fifth-year guys,'” Weber said. “Not only are you recruiting high school kids and now you’re recruiting kids on campus. That would not become a good thing, not good for our business.”

Northwestern coach Bill Carmody nearly took advantage of the exception, but former Vanderbilt forward Andre Walker opted to transfer to Xavier over the Wildcats for his post-grad season. Like his colleagues, Carmody disliked the rule.

“I’m totally against that rule,” Carmody said. “Michigan State got Valpo’s best player. I think it’s crazy. I think it’s a big mistake by the NCAA.”

So, yeah, don’t be surprised when the coaches try to push to eliminate the rule that actually rewards players for being students with the option of a little freedom. Anything that coaches perceive as “encouraging” players to transfer must be stopped.

The National Association of Basketball Coaches board of directors met with NCAA president Mark Emmert on Thursday in Indianapolis and, according to at least one source in the room, there is support to close up a few transfer loopholes. The coaches and Emmert discussed making any player who wants to transfer sit out a year, even if he or she has graduated and is seeking a waiver to play immediately at a school that has a graduate program that isn’t available at the current school. The discussion also turned to the waiver that allows a player to play immediately if a relative is ill. That, too, could be closed. The consensus among the coaches is that if anyone transfers, he should sit out a year, even if that means a sixth year in college. The coaches also wanted some sort of universal language on transfer restrictions, maybe even an NCAA rule that forbids transferring within a league.

To that end, there is now a committee looking into transfers.

The NCAA says a membership-wide working group is looking at all Division I rules, including all transfer situations. NCAA president Mark Emmert has a task force just for transfer rules. All options are on the table. One, which Division I college coaches fear could be put into action, is a one-time transfer waiver for all players during their career. The NCAA is gathering feedback on all potential changes and there aren’t any specific proposals to review yet. But coaches are expected to push their compliance directors to dismiss a one-time transfer waiver for all players. Players may want to have the freedom to move once in their career. But they likely won’t have a voice on this one.

The odds of a one-time transfer with immediate eligibility will never happen. Forget the coaches, the schools wouldn’t stand for it. Just as they would never support the idea of a transfer with immediate eligibility if a coach leaves or gets fired.

If that was allowed, then schools would be more hesitant to fire a coach. And coaches could actually see their movement restricted as schools might actually begin to enforce the contract language (and keep wages down) because of the risk of harm to the program if the coach leaves and players go.

No shock that the players don’t get a say in this. They never do. But don’t worry, their best interests are at the heart of this. Just ask the coaches.

Any update on Savage, our QB transfer who was a stud coming out of HS in southeastern PA? He’s tall and looked great as a freshman at Rutgers a cople years ago. It would be awesome if he could play this year.

Comment by Dish 06.14.12 @ 12:25 pm

What would be the reason for Savage getting a waiver? Not getting any PT? How about that the new coach at Arizona no longer plays the style of football he is suited for … is this was the case, half the Pitt team would have transferred last year.

Comment by wbb 06.14.12 @ 12:59 pm

Dixon on The Fan in a couple of minutes — 3:20

Comment by wbb 06.14.12 @ 3:19 pm

Just one of the problems with the NCAA. Grown men make career changes on a whim or for a few dollars more and there are no repercussions.

An 18 year old that is green about the ways of the world, being held to a different standard. The kids, in my opinion should be allowed only one “get out of jail free card” during their college career, which would let them transfer, irrespective of circumstances. Personally, I would require a university to put in the scholarship offer, that my son is allowed to transfer and will not be blocked from doing so by the university. If the university doesn’t sign it, I would go play in the SEC, where they can get away with anything.

Point being is that the NCAA is messed up and see them going away in 5 years as they don’t equally represent all the colleges and universities.

Comment by dhuffdaddy 06.14.12 @ 3:36 pm

Great post Chas. Maybe I liked it so much because I think I have similar feelings about this issue as you.

I’m the same guy who defends LeBron James though so take my opinion with a grain of salt.

I think the problems coaches and schools have is not that transferring is increasing (because it isnt at least in the past 10yrs) but more that they feel they dont have the same degree of control. It certainly true that players have grown more aware of their value — both collegiately and professionally.

There’s this vague notion amongst coaches/universities/owners(which i dont think i’m imagining) that the players owe them something for giving them a chance and/or a scholarship/paycheck, failing to really give the players any credit for increasing the marketability and in turn profitability of the program/franchise.

Think about this. Take a very good highschool player who is good enough to go pro eventually but only good enough to be drafted to the NBA after 3-4 yrs in college. Maybe he gets redshirted (which by the way is usually not up to him). He gets drafted. Unless he comes from a really rich family (which is very rare), he essentially has no choice over where he lives or who he plays/works for up to 8yrs.

Compare that to a gifted highschool student who’s gift is accounting. Maybe he gets a scholarship. If another school would offer him, he can transfer wherever he likes whenever he likes. Out of college, he can pick the company he works for (cuz, like a D1 scholarship b-ball player, he’s one of the best 5000 kids his age at what he does so he does have the choice).

Yet between the future NBA’er and the future PriceWaterhouse Cooper accountant, who has brought more money to their respective school? (I dont think i have to say it but …) Obviously, the future NBA’er. No one pays admission to see the accountant do math. No one’s buying necktie with that guys name on it.

Young men, go get yours.

Comment by PantherP 06.14.12 @ 8:50 pm

Ithink the reason savage put in for a waver is he sat out last year and did not play so he thinks he should not sit out another.
i know he wont get it but do to the fact that he did sit out i think he should.
were he sat out should not madder just that he did but i know they wont see it that way.

Comment by FRANKCAN 06.14.12 @ 8:58 pm

Savage has a few things that couldngomin his favor, including that 1) he already sat out a year 2) sat out for a coach who is no longer there and for a system that is no longer there 3) to be closer to his family for other personal reasons. Savage went to Cardinal O’Hara HS outside of Philly (where I also went many years ago) and I’ve heard that he’s hoping to not have to sit out another year (and the Pitt coaches are hoping so too). I’m sure Pitt is helping guide him with his waiver request form and process. It would be HUGE for him to be able to play this year.

Comment by Dish 06.14.12 @ 10:12 pm

#1 defensive recruit picks Clemson…

Comment by markp 06.14.12 @ 10:21 pm

Dish, if he hasnt regresed since his freshman year at rutgers then he would be at worst on par with tino. Hes also clutch, anybody remember his 75 yard td pass with 22 seconds left? It was something like that but that pass won the game.

Comment by Pk 06.15.12 @ 7:03 am

The irony appears to be that Savage was beat out the following year at Rutgers by then freshman, Chas Dodd, who replaced this past season by freshman, Gary Nova …. who was a Pitt recruit until Wanny’s firing.

Comment by wbb 06.15.12 @ 7:49 am

typo … Dodd ‘was’ replaced by freshman, Nova

Comment by wbb 06.15.12 @ 7:50 am

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