Column: NCAA should allow players to leave when coaches bolt
Hey NCAA, why don't you make Chris Beard sit out a year?
Maybe even two.
In yet another sign of how remarkably out of whack the whole state of college athletics is in this country, Beard left UNLV on Friday to take the head coaching job at Texas Tech - less than two weeks after this mercenary bolted from Arkansas-Little Rock to assume the same job with the Runnin' Rebels.
Yet, just try being a college athlete who wants to play for another school, perhaps because the coach who recruited you - who was probably the major reason you picked that particular school - got a better offer elsewhere. Or, in Beard's case, two better offers just since the end of the recently completed men's basketball season.
Sure, you can transfer. But only if you sit out a year. And perhaps not to the school of your choice, if the new coach wants to be real jerk about it.
That's the way it is in college sports, where the guys in charge have all the power and hoard all the millions, while doling out condescending platitudes about the purity of the game and laughably insisting that it's all about the kids.
If the NCAA and its university overlords gave a hoot about those who wear the uniforms and bring in the revenue that allows coaches to earn millions, they'd immediately tweak one of the most onerous decrees in their serfdom.
The transfer rule.
Specifically, the governing body should allow players to switch to a new school, one of their choice and without restrictions, if their head coach departs for any reason.
Jeff Teague got an idea of just how high the cards are stacked against the athletes during his college days at Wake Forest, under much more tragic circumstances.
Before he ever played a game for the Demon Deacons, his coach, Skip Prosser, died of a heart attack in the summer of 2007. Teague headed home to Indiana, a broken-hearted 19-year-old who wasn't sure if he still wanted to play for the Atlantic Coach Conference school.
Prosser, after all, was the primary lure.
We'll let Teague, who now plays for the NBA's Atlanta Hawks, take it from there:
''That's the only guy who recruited me, the only guy I knew. So I went through that process of trying to go back home. But they told me they may not grant me a release to play right away. So I stuck it out.''
Teague has no regrets about staying at Wake Forest, where he starred for two seasons before being picked in the first round by the Hawks.
Still, that doesn't make it right.
''If a coach leaves, the players should have an opportunity to pick another school,'' Teague said. ''Most of the time, the kids go there to play for that coach.''
That's certainly the way it was for one of Teague's current teammates, Kent Bazemore, who four years removed from his days at Old Dominion still keeps in touch with his college coach, Blaine Taylor.
''The coach is huge,'' said Bazemore, adding ''it's outrageous'' how the NCAA limits players' options.
He wonders why a college player doesn't have, at the very least, the same basic rights as the coach. And, really, we're not even talking about going that far. No one is advocating that players be allowed to sniff around constantly for better offers, which is pretty much a part of the coaching DNA, only that they be allowed to move on if there's a change at the top.
NCAA rules require college football and basketball players to sit out a season, losing a year of eligibility, when they transfer to a school within the same level of competition. Beyond that, some conferences have banned players from transferring within the league. And coaches can throw up further roadblocks, prohibiting players from transferring to certain schools.
In one of the most egregious cases, quarterback Baker Mayfield walked on at Texas Tech, earned the starting job as a true freshman, only to have a falling-out with the coaching staff. When he decided to transfer to Oklahoma, again as a walk-on, he had to sit out a season and lose a year of eligibility.
Never mind that he wasn't even getting a scholarship at the time.
Then there's new Georgia coach Kirby Smart, who is prohibiting players from transferring to other Southeastern Conference schools or to Miami, which is where his predecessor, Mark Richt, landed after being fired by the Bulldogs.
A player who came to Georgia because he wanted to play for Richt won't get a chance to fulfill that goal, because the guy who replaced Richt won't allow anyone to transfer to the Hurricanes.
Bazemore had the right word for it.
Paul Newberry is a national writer for The Associated Press. Write to him at pnewberry(at)ap.org or at www.twitter.com/pnewberry1963 . His work can be found at http://bigstory.ap.org/content/paul-newberry .