Collegiate athletics, football in particular, has had a major problem on its hands for some time now. Programs are built up by coaches who preach loyalty to their players ad nauseam, asking them to buy-in to their philosophies and coaching styles in the pursuit of wins on the gridiron. They make promises on the recruiting trail and in prospects’ homes that detail their grand plans of how their program is going to take the next step, adding something to the effect of “and you, son, are going to be the player to help us do just that.”
Then, suddenly, if what that coach is preaching and asking of his players results in sustained success another program with deeper financial pockets pops on the scene, offers the coach an obscene amount of money, and – poof – that coach is now selling his system on behalf of his new school and asking for the same buy-in from his inherited athletes.
Be it far from anyone to begrudge an individual from making as much money as they can in their chosen profession. That’s capitalism at it’s finest. The issue at hand is for the players left behind at the coach’s old program who signed binding legal contracts, called a National Letter of Intent, that tie them to the school legally.
These student-athletes, as their called at the collegiate level, don’t have the freedom to up-and-leave like their coach did. They have to ask for a formal release from that contract, hoping the new coach and school administrators understand, find a program willing to take them in, and, to top it all off, spend an entire “year in residence” away from the playing field. They also have to petition for their previous school to allow them receive financial aid immediately upon their transfer to a new school.
These are roadblocks that allow collegiate programs to “block” an athlete from attending any school they don’t want to see the athlete suit up for, or at the very least, make it a financial burden to depart for greener pastures.
These issues have been hotly debated and contested multiple times, picking up steam in recent years with various proposals for a transfer rule reform to enable student-athletes the freedom to decide for themselves what their future will be.
Some have proposed unlimited transfers. This would be insane and impossible to control. Others have proposed a one-time transfer rule, available to any athlete at any time in their career. Better. Some have even said to leave the system as it is currently, in essence telling student-athletes “tough tiddlywinks” if you want to leave. Pick the program/school, they say, not the coach.
None of these proposals cut it. The NCAA knows that. That’s why their board of directors have charged Division 1 schools to come up with a solution to these issues. They want the reformed rules implemented as soon as possible, potentially by next season.
CBS Sports national college football writer Dennis Dodd wrote this week that a new proposal has emerged that empowers student-athletes and solves the aforementioned issues. The legislation, proposed by administrators from Baylor and Iowa State would allow student-athletes to transfer, without penalty, to a new school should the coach they signed to play for at their original school gets a new job or is fired.
Additionally, student-athletes could transfer without penalty if they’ve graduated with a Bachelors degree, their program is banned from postseason competition or the athlete was a walk-on who had not received financial aid at their previous school.
The proposal (which you can read here) also would prevent student-athletes from following their coach to that coach’s new school, thereby preventing “poaching” of rosters. An issue that would arise with these stipulations is, of course, the potential for a program to be decimated numbers-wise by mass transfer of athletes.
That is an issue that would need to be addressed but is something that could be worked out with additional tweaks to the limits of the number of student-athletes (25 currently) a program can sign in a year.
Another issue solved by this proposal is that a student-athlete would not longer need to seek permission to transfer to a program. The “blocks” that have been imposed previously would be nullified, further empowering the athletes to be in control of their fate, both on the field and in the classroom.
To bring this closer to home, Jay Drew of the Salt Lake Tribune wrote a story about University of Hawaii wide receiver Dylan Collie, who is set to graduate in June and has announced he intention to transfer for his final season of eligibility. Collie has reportedly narrowed his choices to BYU or Vanderbilt.
In the story, Collie said that Rainbow Warriors coach Nick Rolovich stipulated in the release granted to Collie that he could not transfer to a Mountain West Conference school, which is the conference Hawaii plays football in. Under the the aforementioned proposal, Collie would be able to transfer wherever he pleases, including inside the MWC. Coach Rolovich or other administrators at Hawaii would have no say in the matter.
This proposal is not perfect. Nothing that could be proposed ever will be. But the good news is that this proposal has the sanest and most reasoned-out changes that both protect college football programs and also allow athletes to govern themselves and decide what is best for them, just like their coaches are doing.
The proposal further stipulates changes for transfers across all Division 1 sports. With college basketball seeing transfer rates of nearly 40 percent, there’s a need for reform in other sports as well. This is just one proposal that will be put up for consideration by the NCAA’s Board of Directors but it seems like to be the one that carries the most promise.
A lot can change between now and June, when the Division 1 Working Transfer Group is to submit at least one proposal for consideration of legislation. Here’s hoping this proposal, still in its preliminary stages, snowballs into meaningful reform.