In light of the Kaleb Joseph transfer news, hearing that Christian White was transferring from the Syracuse Orange for his final year of eligibility might not be of concern to many fans. You might think only of White for his unique hair style this season, and this Shining Moment from SU's Tournament run:
However, when looking a little closer, it makes me wonder about the priorities of the NCAA. White is on track to graduate from Syracuse with a degree in computer science, and wants to continue in the same field for his graduate studies, which he will do next year at Pace University (a D2 school). Nothing seems too unusual about that, so what's the big deal? Well, let me peel this back and show you why I think the NCAA is once again avoiding common sense in their never-ending quest for control over every aspect of an athlete's career.
For the last month we've been bombarded with commercials touting the student part of the student-athlete. Two conference commissioners took to CNN to pen an editorial pushing the idea that "athletes are educated, not exploited". If you go to the NCAA website, you can read all about "The Value of College Sports", and there are numerous pieces written about the "Academic clustering of athletes", so why should you care about a walk-on leaving to go to a Division II school?
If you want to make an issue about graduation rates, and athletes being free to choose their own major, why is there this restriction?
According to NCAA rules, White can't transfer to another Division I school if he wants to continue his pursuit of a degree in computer science. NCAA rules allow student-athletes to use the grad transfer rule only if the school offers a degree not offered at his/her current school. In White's case, he wants to continue his study of computer science.
White, who began his career at Monmouth, had no opportunity to pursue both a graduate degree in computer science, and a transfer to another D1 school, unless he chose a program that Syracuse University does not offer. In what world does that make any sense? If you graduate from college, have a season of eligibility, and want to pursue a graduate degree, why should you be limited by these restrictions? It's incredibly hypocritical of the NCAA (both the organization, and the schools that determine these rules) to say they care about the well-being of student-athletes, yet continue to enforce these rules.
Why shouldn't White have the option to consider schools which play D1 basketball and offer his program of choice? If athletes aren't supposed to be treated differently than other college students, shouldn't they be able to do what a large number of their peers do and broaden their education in their chosen field?
Maybe it's because the NCAA would rather have us get upset that Malachi Richardson is weighing his options or that Skal Labassiere would pursue life-changing money instead of returning to school to play for free. Why on one hand is it important to pursue an education, but on the other hand, pursuing an education has to come with restrictions?
I wish the best to Christian White, and the others like him, who want to have both the academic and athletic opportunities they are afforded. Someday I hope the NCAA gets around to making sure they are able to truly be "student-athletes".