If you've watched college football or basketball, you probably remember seeing this commercial repeatedly. As much as the NCAA wants to keep reminding you how many student-athletes "go pro in something other than sports", it seems that many college coaches and administrators won't stop until they can control every aspect of a student's life. At issue this week is the graduate transfer rule, which allows a student who graduates and has eligibility remaining to transfer schools and play immediately. It's a "loophole" that has administrators concerned because it is about athletics and not academics.
Take a look at some of the recent columns on the subject:Jon Solomon of CBS, Mike DeCourcy from The Sporting News, or Dan Wolken of USA Today and look at some of the language used by those who want to change the rule. Athletes who graduate and transfer are labelled as a "hired gun", and their actions "don't fit the core values of intercollegiate athletics."
I mean, really? These are the same athletes who are recruited by coaches who can change jobs at any point, and who play games whenever and wherever the administrators, or tv networks, tell them.
Look, the idea that a student isn't taking a semester of legitimate academic work as they complete their football eligibility is a concern. Oh wait, as DeCourcy points out, how about Matt Leinart who said this about his final semester at USC, where he took only a ballroom dancing class, "School's done for me -- I'm here to concentrate on football", or Marcus Mariota who had the grueling schedule this past Fall while winning the Heisman Trophy as QB for the Oregon Ducks-of yoga and golf.
Don't get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with what Leinart and Mariota did because both did what they needed to do to complete their undergraduate degree. So why is it okay for a student to do that, or to stay at their school and enter a graduate program that they don't complete, and not okay for others to transfer? It's just hypocritical to say that this discussion is about protecting academics, and not about helping coaches and schools maintain control over the athletes.
At least some coaches get that it doesn't make sense to add further restrictions. Here's David Shaw from Stanford, who is losing three of his football players as graduate transfers,
"I'd love to have those guys back," Shaw said. "But then I look at it and say, 'You know what? Would those guys be in position to where they're kind of rotating in with us?' If they have a chance to go be 'the guy' someplace else, they've done their part for me, for Stanford University. They've played their tails off, they've stayed the course with school, they graduated. You graduate from college in four years? No one should be able to tell you that you can't go someplace else to play a fifth year."
Shaw isn't alone in his opinion as Terry Bowden was also willing to take the side of the students,
"They should let (transfers) play right away everywhere," Bowden said. "They shouldn't have to sit. The coaches leave. If we can go get a million-dollar contract somewhere else, why can't the player leave? It's no different than schools that want to get rid of a coach or a coach that wants to leave in the middle of his five-year contract. Nobody stops them. I don't think it's right."
A lot of the focus is on the big names - Vernon Adams and Everett Golson, but what about Syracuse Orange walk-on basketball player Carter Sanderson? Sanderson completed his Lipscomb degree and came to SU where he completed a Master's Degree at Newhouse and has landed a job with Fox Sports. By the way, the Newhouse program is one year, so if the rule was changed, Sanderson would have been unable to fulfill his desired academic program, which is what everyone involved in college athletics wants, right?
Maybe a better solution would be to look at this suggestion from Syracuse Professor Bill Coplin, or to find a way to encourage more students to earn their degree by increasing their opportunity to play sports in college. I'm curious to hear what you have to say. Do you care if graduate transfers play right away? Leave your comments below.