When coaches complain that something is “not good for college basketball,” chances are great that the source of irritation is good for college basketball players.
Funny how that works, no?
Imagine that your son, nephew, brother or cousin is a super-talented freshman with “NBA lottery” stamped on his game. He’s smart, mature and well-balanced for an 18-year-old. You wouldn’t worry that a one-and-done season makes life harder for the coach and dampens the team’s outlook next year.
You would celebrate the fact that Junior positioned himself to sign an eight-figure contract that pays him more in two years than you’d make in three lifetimes. That’s great news for him and the family.
Here’s a scenario that doesn’t involve the NBA draft: Imagine that Junior wants a change of scenery after a season or three on campus. Maybe he’s far away and wants to be closer to home. Maybe he clashed with the coach or teammates. Maybe he wants to play at a better program.
So he transfers and sits out a season. Or he completes his degree before exhausting his athletic eligibility, which allows him to transfer and play immediately as a grad student. Good for him.
But too many coaches whine that it’s bad for them, particularly when they’re at low- to mid-major schools and their stars depart for Power Six conferences.
Sports Illustrated reports that since 2012, the number of players who have “transferred up” – not including moves from one power league to another – has more than tripled. SI found that 28 players (19 traditional transfers and nine graduate students) left for distinctly higher levels in 2012. Last off-season, the number rose to 91, including a five-fold increase in grad transfers (49).
“I wouldn’t want to be a mid-major coach these days; I feel for those guys,” Notre Dame coach and former Delaware coach Mike Brey told SI. “And the transfers aren’t going away. I wouldn’t want to try and build one at that level. The recruit you steal, you’re just renting.”
Robert Morris coach Andy Toole lost grad transfer Rodney Pryor to Georgetown prior to last season and traditional transfer Marcquise Reed to Clemson two years ago. UNC-Asheville lost star players who transferred to Marquette, Louisville and Arizona the past two years. “It’s almost like there’s the BCS world and everyone else is there for the pickings,” Toole told SI.
Kentucky coach John Calipari said scholarships for grad transfers would be issued more judiciously if they covered up to two years, even though players receive just one season of eligibility. “If the kid gets his grad degree in one year, fine,” Calipari told ESPN. “If he doesn’t you’ve got to use the scholarship for two years.”
Other coaches argue that grad transfers should be required to sit out a season just like traditional transfers. The coaches see their buddies suffering losses and being fired because players are on the move. “So many of these mid-majors are getting crushed,” Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski told ESPN. “The fifth-year transfer is the one. I hate what it does for our profession.”
Yes, because it’s all about the adults and their million-dollar salaries, not the kids toiling for room, board, books and tuition.
“Small colleges are becoming the minor leagues for the big schools,” longtime sneaker executive Sonny Vaccaro told SI.
He was talking about players. No need to be specific, though, because they’re not at all peculiar.
Coaches “up-transfer” all the time. Last month alone, Kevin Keatts went from UNC-Wilmington to North Carolina State; Archie Miller went from Dayton to Indiana; and Will Wade went from VCU to LSU. Wade is the fourth consecutive Rams coach who departed for a power conference job, following Shaka Smart (Texas), Anthony Grant (Alabama) and Jeff Capel (Oklahoma).
That’s not to mention assistant coaches, some of whom go from low- to mid-major jobs to annual salaries in the mid- to high-six figures.
Athletic directors move on for better opportunities. College presidents reach higher on the career ladder. Professors pack up to seek superior situations. Ditto for biology majors and band members.
But none of that is harmful, just when players leave. Can coaches be more selfish?
ESPN said an anonymous mid-major coach who lost a top player to a power conference school promised to start “slowing down the graduation process” to avoid similar defections. Tactics could include decreasing the players’ summer school courses or eliminating them altogether. Players also could be urged to take the minimum class hours (12 per semester) necessary to qualify as full-time students.
“What kid is going to argue and want to take more classes,” another anonymous mid-major coach told ESPN. “There aren’t many.”
Coaches have a lot of nerve grumbling about the only instance in which players have some control. Just like everyone else in the game, one-and-dones and transfers are looking out for their own best interests.
They clearly can’t depend on anyone else.
That’s what’s bad about the situation.
— Brooklyn-born and Howard-educated, Deron Snyder writes his award-winning column for The Washington Times on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Follow him on Twitter @DeronSnyder.