The NCAA finally seems open to some common sense. Here’s what it should do about transfers
- The NCAA seems to be open to taking power away from coaches to make transfer rules more fair to players. There's a simple solution for how to do that.
I’m mad at the NCAA.
I know what you’re thinking: “Aren’t you always mad at the NCAA, Andy?” Yes, that’s true. But today I’m mad for a different reason. The news that came out of one of the NCAA’s many working groups last week suggests that the association is continuing a theme that has emerged in the past few years, and the continuation of that theme is bad for business for those of us who write about college sports.
The working group studying the transfer rules put out a notice last week seeking input to help guide a potential revamp of the transfer system. What made that notice so interesting was this passage: “Group members believe financial aid should not be tied to whether a school grants permission to contact. They want to know if others in the membership feel the same way.”
Translated from NCAA to English, that means this: The members of this group, who all work at schools or conferences in various capacities, don’t believe control-freak coaches should have any control over whether a transferring player can get a scholarship at another school. They want to know if others who work in college athletics feel the same way.
The unwritten implication? Anyone who supports the existing system might possibly be outed as the raging hypocrite they are. The working group, which is part of the powerful Division I Council, seems quite open to different ideas for what might happen after a transferring player leaves a school. Members do not seem flexible on that one particular prong of the transfer rules, and that is a wonderful development for the players and a terrible one for we sportswriters who cover the NCAA.
This looks like further evidence that the people at the schools and at the NCAA have embraced rational thought. Perhaps this is because of newish leaders such as former West Virginia athletic director Oliver Luck, who I joked a few years ago was hired to be the organization’s VP of Common Sense. Perhaps it took getting humiliated in the O’Bannon trial and the threat of further humiliation from attorney Jeffrey Kessler—the man who helped bring free agency to the NFL—and his plaintiffs to realize that softening the stance as it relates to the labor force might help keep the gravy train rolling a little longer for athletic directors and coaches.
Whatever the reason, we’re seeing a lot less hardline absolutism from the leaders of college sports and far more willingness to compromise. Exhibit A is the package of college football recruiting reforms passed earlier this year. (How do we know the reforms will be better for recruits? Because their passage made football coaches mad.) Consider this latest development Exhibit B. This makes my job much more difficult. How am I supposed to poke fun at the NCAA if the schools begin passing rules that actually make sense and treat athletes fairly?
The members of the working group have dared their colleagues to try to stop a new package of transfer rules that would strip power from the coaches to use the scholarship as a weapon to keep players trapped at their school or keep them away from a school that might eventually beat them on the field.
Last month, Kansas State football coach Bill Snyder tried to block receiver Corey Sutton from receiving aid at 35 different schools ranging from other Power 5 members to Division II members. Under the current rules, Sutton still must sit out a season if he transfers within the FBS, but Snyder didn’t think that was enough of a disincentive. He decided Sutton would have to pay his own way anywhere he went even though a number of schools were willing to give Sutton a scholarship. Snyder shouldn’t have that power, and neither should any other coach. Sutton wound up transferring to Appalachian State after Kansas State released him following the usual blowback when an athletic department holds an athlete hostage.
The working group also suggested that perhaps penalties should be stronger for coaches caught attempting to recruit players from other schools before those players receive permission to be contacted. That might help curb tampering more than the current system in which coaches simply block the player from transferring on scholarship if they even suspect another school got in touch too early.
LSU coach Ed Orgeron recently blocked offensive lineman Willie Allen from transferring to TCU on scholarship. Orgeron had no problem allowing Allen to go almost anywhere else. For example, LSU granted permission for Allen to transfer to Miami if he wanted, where his first game after sitting out this season would have been against LSU. The (Baton Rouge, La.) Advocate and NOLA.com each reported that LSU’s block of TCU stemmed from a belief that TCU coaches had tried to contact Allen early. Those newspapers reported late last month that Allen would transfer to a junior college in Tyler, Texas. After a season there, he can transfer to any FBS school he wants on scholarship—including TCU.
But it shouldn’t be that hard for Allen to go where he wants on scholarship. And if LSU has proof TCU coaches jumped the gun, LSU’s administration should report that to the NCAA and settle the dispute that way. Allen, who would have had to sit out the 2017 season had he transferred to any FBS school, shouldn’t be doubly penalized. The players aren’t the property of the schools. Yes, the schools do plow resources into the players. But the players hold up their end of the bargain by providing football product that the schools sell to ticket-buyers and television networks for millions. The arrangement is not as one-sided as some coaches and ADs would have you believe.
The working group tossed out a few potential outcomes for a new standard, which still may be a year or so away. One possibility was making any undergraduate transfer sit for a year (the current rule) but not allow the school the player is leaving to dictate where he or she can transfer on scholarship. Another possibility would remove the requirement to sit out a year. That would satisfy the hardcore NCAA reformers, but it probably stands no chance of passing. Still another suggestion is to adopt a rule similar to the one the SEC just tweaked for graduate transfers that would penalize schools who take graduate transfers—who can play immediately—who don’t finish their degrees.
The second possibility probably has no shot at ever passing. Most schools simply aren’t going to go for completely unrestricted movement. But the difference between now and a few years ago is that the schools seem willing to meet the players in the middle and drop the absurd rules that allow coaches to limit where players can transfer on scholarship. In 2005, the NCAA and schools would have clung to the “You’ll do what we say and like it” model of governance. This group, either because of an injection of common sense or fear of further legal action, seems much more willing to compromise.
And here’s what the compromise should be. If you’ve read this space, you know the transfer rules can be amended quickly and easily to provide more freedom for the athletes while still giving them an incentive to stay at their first school. The new rules I suggested in May run fewer than 100 words and should work for everyone involved…
Undergraduates: All undergraduate transfers must sit out one year unless their previous school signs a waiver allowing them to play immediately. No school may block an athlete from receiving financial aid at another school.
Graduates: All graduates are allowed a one-time exception that allows them to transfer and play immediately. No school may block an athlete from receiving financial aid at another school, but a school may revoke the scholarship of a player who has graduated.
It’s that simple. The NCAA’s working group didn’t ask for my opinion, but given the current climate, my guess is the rules that eventually get passed will look fairly similar. That will be the players’ gain and my loss because the NCAA was so much more fun to cover before common sense began creeping into the process.
A random ranking
As I get ready to hit the road for another season of college football—let’s be honest, the season really starts with SEC Media Days next week—I’m always on the lookout for viewing options. Fortunately, Netflix now allows subscribers to download videos onto their mobile devices for offline viewing. This is a godsend for long flights. In honor of the first full season featuring downloadable Netflix, it’s time to rank the best* 10 Netflix original series**.
1. Bojack Horseman
2. Stranger Things
3. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
5. Jessica Jones
7. House of Cards
8. All Hail King Julien
10. Master of None
*I haven’t had a chance to start Glow yet. I reserve the right to tear up this list and re-rank at some point in the next few weeks.
**These aren’t all downloadable. The Marvel-affiliated shows such as Jessica Jones and Daredevil remain streaming only.
1. If another NCAA working group passes a rule that allows receivers to ride personal watercraft, Georgia is going to shoot straight to the top of the SEC. Here’s Bulldogs quarterback Jacob Eason throwing a strike to (very nautical) tight end Isaac Nauta.
But as good as Eason’s throw was, it doesn’t top this jet ski flea-flicker from Oklahoma State quarterback Mason Rudolph last summer.
2. Virginia cornerback Charles Davis listened to his grandmother and reaped the benefits. According to The (Charlottesville, Va.) Daily Progress, Davis used the numbers his grandmother suggested while buying a lottery ticket during a coffee run for his mother. The Nebraska transfer wound up winning $100,000. The real question is how big a cut does grandma get?
3. One of the best things a college football fan can do in the dead of summer is read Bill Connelly’s team-by-team previews over at SB Nation. One of the second-best things a college football fan can do in the dead of summer is read the awful things people say to Bill on Twitter after he predicts Nebraska will go 6–6.
What’s eating Andy?
You may have noticed a slight tweak to the Punt, Pass and Pork template this week. Starting now, the news and notes section will be called Three-and-out instead of First-and-10.
We did this for a few reasons. First, I would often use the first few slots in First-and-10 to write mini-columns about issues that required a deeper dive. But an issue worth a mini-column probably deserves its own column. So those will get broken out as separate columns. Second, many of the items I rounded up were things you’d already seen on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram. You have the Internet; it’s how you’re reading this column. So I’m not going to show you a bunch of stuff you’ve already seen. Third, I have a few new duties at SI. Keep reading and I’ll explain.
What’s Andy eating?
On Friday, we launched the greatest site in the history of the Internet. Perhaps I’m a tad biased because this brings me one step closer to my dream of being paid solely to eat bacon and write about it.
The site is called SI Eats, and it’s going to be a team effort from us at SI to cover the intersection of food and sports. Naturally, I’ll be contributing a lot. In fact, the restaurant reviews you’ve been reading the past three years here in Triple P will all live there in the form of city dining guides. So if you’re hitting the road to see your team—or for a boring meeting—click away for the best places to eat and drink.
I’ll still be writing about what I’ve eaten on the road. I’ll just be doing it more often now. So if you were one of the readers who scrolled to this section first, don’t worry. You’ll still find deliciousness here. But now you have an entire site to enjoy as well.
Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to spend the next four days in the gym to build up a calorie debt for my first official SI Eats assignment.