Transferring in college sports can’t become free-agency

07/23/2014 7:51 PM

07/23/2014 7:52 PM

Transferring schools in major college athletics didn’t used to be a thing. So much so that when it happened — Troy Aikman ditching Oklahoma for UCLA — Wow!

Today, it’s whatever.

Transferring season — from the conclusion of football and basketball season until the end of the school year — has revved up in the past few years. ESPN writer Jeff Goodman tracks men’s basketball migration and counted 291 transfers in 2011, 455 in 2013.

The transfer culture has been accepted, if not warmly embraced, and some area examples show how messy and complicated it can all be.

Oklahoma is seeking to gain immediately eligibility for wide receiver Dorial Green-Beckham, despite his legal troubles at Missouri.

Earlier this year, women’s basketball player Leticia Romero engaged in a contentious battle at her original school, Kansas State, to gain a release that would allow her to remain on scholarship elsewhere. The Wildcats relented and she wound up at Florida State.

The transfer issue and enforcement were recently removed from the autonomy bucket by the power five conferences that want to establish a governance structure for the richest schools. When it comes to transfers, the thinking is schools at all levels and budgets have to agree on guidelines.

But coming to a consensus on transfers may prove difficult. The Pac-12, in a letter to the other power five school presidents, said reform should “liberalize current rules limiting the ability of student-athletes to transfer between institutions.”

The league didn’t define the liberalization, but the mood in college sports is to increase benefits for athletes. The Northwestern football unionization movement is focused on more freedom for athletes, and transfers would likely be included.

When it comes to transferring between major colleges, some have suggested eliminating the sit-out year. Coaches can jump to different schools. Why can’t athletes do the same and play right away?

Smaller schools fear the free-agency possibility. Say a star emerges at a Mid-American Conference school and wants to play up. Why wouldn’t that athlete want to play at Ohio State or Michigan if there’s no sit-out year?

Also, in that scenario, recruiting may never stop. Alabama and Texas could constantly scout the Sun Belt for immediately eligible talent.

It could work the other way. Somebody doesn’t like his playing time at North Carolina and walks into a position at East Carolina.

“It’s a slippery slope,” West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen said. “It would open up a lot of situations where the first time somebody has a bad day, he’d jump ship. The free agency aspect is every dangerous.”

But it’s also a bad practice for schools to limit transfer destinations. Kansas State lost big in the court of public opinion for blocking Romero.

“I think we need schools to stop saying, ‘You can’t go to this school or that school,’” Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby said.

Transfer rules are wrapped in so much red tape that the NCAA publishes a separate manual on the topic that numbers more than 30 pages. It is within those guidelines that Oklahoma’s compliance department is combing to find the exception that would allow Green-Beckham to step on the field this season.

It’s difficult to see how any exception would apply to this situation. Green-Beckham was dismissed after two marijuana-related arrests and an allegation of breaking into an apartment and pushing a woman down a flight of stairs. He has not been charged in the second marijuana arrest and pleaded guilty to trespassing in the first. He was not arrested or charged in the apartment incident.

But no waiver should exist that allows one player to become immediately eligible after getting booted from his original school.

It’s unlikely Green-Beckman plays this year, but that enough of an opening exists to pursue an exception proves that the transfer rule needs a thorough examination and definitive guidelines.

To reach Blair Kerkhoff, call 816-234-4730 or send email to Follow him on Twitter: @BlairKerkhoff.


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