To recap, West Virginia head coach Bob Huggins was arrested and charged with driving under the influence on Friday in Pittsburgh. Huggins recorded a blood alcohol level of .210, more than twice the legal limit in Pennsylvania, while police found empty beer cans in his vehicle. Less than a day following reports of Huggins’ arrest on June 16 - just over a month after using a homophobic slur during a radio show in Cincinnati - Huggins resigned on Saturday as the West Virginia coach.
Huggins spearheaded a productive transfer portal cycle over the course of this offseason - including the addition of All-ACC third team Syracuse center Jesse Edwards (14.5 points, 10.3 rebounds, 1.4 steals and 2.7 blocks per game last season), one of the best transfer players available per 247Sports and ESPN.
NEWS: Former Syracuse center Jesse Edwards, ESPN's No. 3 player in the NCAA transfer portal, has committed to West Virginia, he told ESPN. "I felt it was time for a fresh start."— Jonathan Givony (@DraftExpress) April 16, 2023
Speculation over the state of the West Virginia roster, including Edwards to an extent, began shortly after Huggins’ resignation. Immediately, the question has been asked by some Syracuse fans: can Edwards actually return to the Orange for the 2023-2024 season?
Technically, there’s a chance. Will it happen? Probably not, and here’s why.
Per Jon Rothstein, players from the Mountaineers’ transfer class possess a 30-day window to be eligible immediately for a transfer elsewhere. The 30-day grace period, per the NCAA, allows players like Edwards to re-enter the portal if there is a change in head coach at a program like what happened in West Virginia.
An NCAA official tells me that West Virginia's players now have a 30-day window to transfer following Bob Huggins' resignation.— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) June 18, 2023
Two players in Mountaineers' transfer class - Kerr Kriisa & Jesse Edwards - would be eligible immediately w/o a waiver since they're not 2X transfers. pic.twitter.com/yJuZtFlASz
Let’s start with the most important angle, the Orange have already committed to all 13 scholarships for the 2023-2024 roster, with the last spot clinched by returning freshman guard Judah Mintz. Autry and/or Syracuse Athletics would (in theory) need to jettison someone on the current roster to another program in order to make room for Edwards.
Let’s get this abundantly clear: Syracuse would never do that and it shouldn’t. Such a move would be nothing short of a PR disaster. It’s a horrendous look for recruitment efforts, especially if the view from the player sees the “we love you, until we don’t and it’s time to cut the cord” move play out. It also totally goes against Autry’s (and Syracuse basketball’s) philosophy of building strong, tight-knit relationships with the players.
More importantly, as much as the college basketball landscape has changed in recent years with NIL and the transfer portal, these student athletes are still incredibly young at the end of the day. Such a decision just wouldn’t sit right. Syracuse isn’t just going to toss someone away to make room for Edwards.
Since some might wonder about other avenues, there is the “medical DQ” option which has been used by many schools. In this scenario, a school can medically disqualify an athlete and honor their scholarship without having it count towards NCAA limits. Of course, this has to be proven and documented as legitimate and once an athlete is disqualified, they cannot return to compete at that school. It’s happened, but unless the school and athlete are in agreement on this, it’s not a viable option to provide temporary relief.
Yes, Edwards could technically choose to walk-on at Syracuse, or another school, if he decided that he wanted to play somewhere that had a full roster. NIL was a pretty motivating favor in his decision to head to West Virginia and he’ll collect that money no matter who coaches WVU. Even with Huggins out of the picture, the Mountaineers finished 19-15 overall and nearly snuck by Maryland in the NCAA Tournament before getting to work in the offseason by acquiring the second-best transfer portal class in the nation. Will they pivot quickly for a new head coach to keep the group intact?
Obviously, there’s some major interest in seeking a return from Edwards. After all, who wouldn’t want to see him back as the starting center with a deep, athletic roster. Edwards would provide an experienced, proven center and make this Syracuse team a top-20 team with a pretty high ceiling, but the hope of him returning is very slim.