The NCAA’s rules regarding its restrictions on student-athlete transfers are facing a legal challenge. A lawsuit filed this past spring is asserting that these restrictions are illegal via antitrust laws. As it currently stands, the rule regarding student-athletes switching institutions is: If an athlete wishes to transfer from one four-year institution to another, he or she must sit out an entire academic year before being eligible to play again.
This rule doesn’t apply to coaches, who can change jobs at will without any penalty. So, as Tom Ziller of SB Nation points out, an athlete who chooses a particular school based on the desire to play for a specific coach and that coach then heads off to greener pastures (literally given the salaries these men/women pull down), would have to put his/her college career on hold for a full year. This system also creates circumstances where players wanting to transfer lose out because coaches generally prefer athletes who can contribute immediately.
I can’t see any circumstance or rationale where this is fair to the athletes. But it’s not just the NCAA who wants to keep things status quo, as many college basketball coaches fear what the elimination of the current transfer eligibility rules would do to the sport, as ESPN’s Jeff Goodman relayed. As Goodman notes in his article, there were a total of 750 transfers last year, and coaches claim that if the courts shoot down the transfer eligibility restriction, that number could rise to 1,000 or more.
Despite the current rules, transfers are on the rise as unhappy players are accepting the one-year penalty in order to find better situations for themselves. Plus, an increasing amount of players are using the graduate transfer rule to use their remaining NCAA eligibility while pursuing an advanced degree at a new school with no penalty. This is possible if players earn their Bachelor’s degree in three years or pick up a redshirt year, or both, as Ziller points out.
This brings me to the topic for today’s discussion: Should the NCAA transfer rules stay in place as is, or are alterations needed? If you believe that changes are in order, what would be a fair compromise for all parties?
One compromise that I believe should be implemented, is that if a head coach is fired, retires or leaves for another school, then his/her players should also be free to change schools without penalty. Many of these players based their decisions specifically on who would be their coach and who they felt comfortable with guiding them through their college years. Or year, in the case of many of the top players. The only sticky point with this idea is that coaches could theoretically switch schools and bring with them a large chunk of their roster. This could lead to some “package hires,” where coaches’ deals depend on who they can bring along with them. That could cause some major ethical issues, so perhaps some restrictions would be needed in those instances.
What do you think the answer is? Take to the comments section to share your thoughts and potential fixes to the system. We look forward to what you have to say.