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The truth about the changes that are, and are not, coming to NCAA transfer rules

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Over the course of the week, the idea of changes coming to the way that transfers work at the collegiate level has become a hot-button topic in the world of college sports.

There are discussions going on about whether or not to eliminate the mandatory redshirt season for transferring players. There are also discussions going on about potential changes to how tampering is legislated and whether or not to change how the graduate transfer rule is applied.

I have a lot of thoughts about all of this.

So let’s get into it:

1. Barring student-athletes from transferring is wrong and you’ll never convince me otherwise: Before we get into anything that has to do with how changes to the current rules will affect college basketball, let me make one point very clear: So long as these players are viewed through the prism of being a “student”-athlete, I am against putting up barriers to transferring.

The NCAA operates in a world where college football and college basketball, regardless of how big it has gotten, is an extracurricular activity. Their argument for this is that these players are amateurs. They are students first. They cannot be paid by the school, they cannot be paid by sponsors, they cannot be paid by boosters, they do not own the rights to their likeness, etc. If that is the case, then it is wrong to argue that they are not regular students when it comes time for them to change schools.

You cannot have it both ways.

Either they’re amateur students that should not be punished for choosing to pursue their education elsewhere, or they’re professionals that can be paid in more than just scholarship money and get disincentives to leaving — a mandatory redshirt year — built into their contracts with the school.

Pick one.

Derryck Thornton transferred out of Duke after one year (Harry How/Getty Images)

2. There is no change to the sit-out rule coming in the immediate future: As it stands, there is no current proposal or vote on the table to change the rule. This uproar is a direct result of a note near the bottom of a release from the NCAA updating the work being done by the Division I Transfer Working Group. The working group is asking the Committee on Academics to conduct a survey to research what the effects would be of allowing immediate eligibility for first-time transfers that reach a certain academic standard.

This is happening because people like me have been writing columns for years blasting the NCAA for the current transfer legislation. This is the NCAA doing their due diligence. It’s a step closer to getting the rule changed, but my guess is that, at minimum, this rule change will not occur while any player currently in college can take advantage of it.

3. The impact will be muted because of the academic requirement: The exact wording in the release the NCAA sent out is this: “That committee will be asked to review several concepts, [including] an academic transfer standard for all students that would tie one-time immediate eligibility for competition after transfer to a set of academic benchmarks instead of to in what sport the student-athlete competes.” (Emphasis mine.)

Why is this being glossed over in the discussion of the impact that this rule will have?

We have no idea what that academic standard will actually be. If it is, say, a 3.0 GPA while taking enough credits to put the player on track to graduate within four years, just how many of these potential transfers are actually going to be eligible to receive immediate eligibility? And, quite frankly, if we’re talking about “student”-athletes here, wouldn’t this be the perfect way to incentivize capitalizing on the education they are being paid with?

The biggest issue with the idea that these players are being paid in scholarship money is that they are not in a position to take advantage of that education. Maybe their high school education left them under-prepared for collegiate coursework. Maybe they are bunched into classes where the professors are more concerned with keeping the players eligible than they are with actually educating them. Maybe they are slotted into fake classes, like the scandals at North Carolina and Auburn.

This would create a tangible reward for actually learning the material and doing the coursework.

And while the cynic in me knows that there will be coaches that get those professors to weigh down grades to prevent their players from leaving, there would be a bigger issue at play: Is that really the guy you want in charge of the future of a group of college kids?

Jamion Christian of Mount St. Mary’s lost five transfers this year (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

4. This may hurt low- and mid-majors, but they will be helped by the graduate transfer rule change: It’s already a nightmare the be the head coach of a program at the low- or mid-major level. I’ve written about this extensively in recent years. These coaches get punished for their ability to identify talent and develop players within their programs, whether it is a result of losing their best young players to a higher level or their best veterans through the graduate transfer rule. The quickest way for a mid-major coach to get a job at a higher level is to win big in the NCAA tournament. It’s hard to do that when a good season means that half your roster wants to leave to try and play in the ACC or the Big 12.

This rule change may make that even more difficult.

But you also need to remember that there will be changes to the graduate transfer rule coming, likely sooner than there is immediate eligibility for regular transfers. In an effort to limit the explosion of graduate transfers using that rule as a loophole to jump to a higher level, the NCAA is looking at two potential answers:

  • Forcing graduate transfers to count against a program’s scholarship numbers for however many years it would take to finish the graduate program they enroll in. If it would take that player two years to get that graduate degree, then that player would count against the new school’s 13 scholarships for two years even if he only plays for one year.
  • Graduate transfers would count against the APR score, punishing that school if the player does not complete the graduate degree or leave in good academic standing the way they would with an underclassmen that leaves school early.

Both of those options, if implemented, would reduce the number of graduate transfers on the market simply because the cost of taking them would increase.

5. It’s not going to be easy for high-majors, either: This change would be difficult for coaches at the highest level to deal with because of the expectations that comes with playing at those programs.

How many freshmen are going to be content playing five minutes a game their first year on campus? Will coaches be able to hold players accountable or punish them for poor play without risking burning a bridge? Would Marques Bolden still be at Duke or Sacha Killeya-Jones still be at Kentucky if they didn’t have to sit out a year by leaving? I don’t agree with everything in his column, but Evan Daniels broke down the fears of the coaches at that level here.

Cameron Johnson of Pitt will be eligible immediately at UNC this year (Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

6. Players are punished because coaches know that too many coaches are scumbags: At the end of the day, this really is what it comes down to.

The heart of the argument laid out in Daniels’ column is that players must be punished if they want to transfer because coaches cannot trust other coaches not to tamper with kids currently on rosters. That’s really what it boils down to, and that couldn’t be sillier or more unfair.

But I also get it.

Talent acquisition is arguably the most valuable skill to have as a college basketball coach. You might be the most brilliant basketball mind in the history of the world, but you’re not going to win too many games if you’re coaching in the ACC with a bunch of guys that should be playing in the CAA. Would John Wooden be John Wooden if Sam Gilbert wasn’t there? Would Gregg Popovich be Gregg Popovich if the Spurs didn’t land Tim Duncan way back when? Would anyone care about John Calipari if he wasn’t the world’s best recruiter?

Now think about the salaries that coaches get at the highest level, or the amount of time you have to build up a struggling program. You might lose your seven-figure salary in three years if you don’t get players in to help you win. Of course you’re going to do everything you can to get those players, even if it requires recruiting kids in the handshake line.

That said, the onus should be on the coaches with the seven-figure salaries to be able to keep their team happy.

That is the job.

So maybe they’ll have to miss on a recruit or two because they cannot lie about what their role or their minutes will look like as freshmen. And maybe they’ll have to put a little more effort into keeping up relationships with the player and his family after he signs with the program. And maybe they’ll have to deal with losing a player they didn’t expect to lose every other year because that kid wants more playing time, or wants to play a more uptempo style, or wants to be allowed to shoot more threes.

I’m not here to say that it will be easier, but being good at a hard job is why they’re paid the big bucks.

And I don’t understand why anyone would argue in favor of making things easier for the rich coaches when it comes at a cost to the unpaid, amateur students providing the labor that allows those rich coaches to become rich.

The differences between the NCAA’s Louisville and North Carolina rulings

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One of the questions that I have been asked the most since news broke that the NCAA had upheld a ruling that Louisville would have to vacate four seasons worth of wins, including a trip to the Final Four and a National Title, was why what Louisville did was significantly worse than the two decades of academic fraud that had occurred at North Carolina.

UNC, if you’ve forgotten, was not punished at all by the NCAA for the scandal involving paper classes that helped keep football and basketball players eligible.

And the reason for that is really quite simple: The NCAA made an active decision that they would not be in the business of determining what does and what does not constitute academic fraud. In April of 2014, the Division I Legislative Council clarified academic misconduct rules, saying “academic standards and policies governing misconduct are the responsibility of individual schools and their accreditation body,” and that “the membership’s position that it is a school’s responsibility to decide whether or not misconduct involving current or future student-athletes or school staff has occurred.”

The thinking here makes sense.

The NCAA is not an organization that is designed to determine whether or classwork is legitimate. That responsibility falls on the shoulders of accrediting agencies. Those rules are bigger than the NCAA. What they couldn’t have predicted, however, was that a university as prominent and as well-respected as the University of North Carolina would a hit to their academic respectability to protect their athletic department. UNC said that the fraudulent classes weren’t, you know, fraudulent. That’s why the NCAA tried North Carolina as an extra benefits case.

Put another way, the Committee on Infractions for the UNC case could not determine that the “courses were solely created, offered and maintained as an orchestrated effort to benefit student-athletes,” because they weren’t. They were created by a rogue professor. The athletic department found out those classes existed. Student-athletes took advantage of a fake class the way the rest of the student body at-large did. The fake classes were not created specifically for those student-athletes.

That distinction is critical, because it represents the difference between the scandal falling under NCAA jurisdiction and the jurisdiction of the agency tasked with accrediting the University of North Carolina as something other than a diploma mill.

With Louisville, there really was no debate about whether or not this was an NCAA issue. A member of a college basketball team’s coaching staff was providing student-athletes and prospective recruits, some of whom were under the age of 18, with lap dances and sexual favors that he paid for. That is the definition of extra benefits in the NCAA rulebook, and the egregiousness of what occurred — strippers, hookers, underage recruits, etc. — is why Louisville was hit so hard.

The NCAA is stupid and illogical and I hate so much about it, but I find it hard to fault them for the way either of these cases played out.

Penny Hardaway acknowledges links to college programs

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One of the most fascinating subplots to this year’s college coaching carousel is what will happen with Penny Hardaway.

A Memphis basketball legend, Penny is currently the head coach of the powerhouse Memphis East high school while running a Nike-affiliated AAU program aptly named Team Penny. Combined, those rosters include an absolutely ridiculous amount of talent. James Wiseman, who may just be the best player in the Class of 2019, plays for both East and Team Penny. Another five-star prospect in the Class of 2019, D.J. Jeffries, also plays for Team Penny while his cousins — Jonathan and Chandler Lawson, the younger brothers of former Memphis and current Kansas players Dedric and K.J. — play for East.

There’s a real debate about whether or not those teams would be able to beat the Memphis Tigers basketball team.

As in the University of Memphis.

That’s where things are in that city.

Which is why Penny Hardaway has been linked to a job that isn’t even open yet. It’s why his name is mentioned when discussing whether or not Ole Miss should hire him to replace Andy Kennedy. We’re talking about a guy with more than a decade of experience in the NBA that can, in theory, bring with him the kind of talent that you would expect to see on a roster like Kentucky or Duke. It would only make sense for the likes of Memphis and Ole Miss to kick the tires.

What if he says yes?

And, according to an interview he gave to SEC Country, it sounds like Penny would, at the very least, listen.

“It’s a huge compliment for any college to even think about wanting me to come in. I feel like I bring a lot to the table even though I haven’t coached college,” he told the site on Monday. “I feel like my NBA experience and the coaches I’ve had over the years, I’ve learned enough to be a head coach in college. But I’m really enjoying this right now and coaching these guys.”

If Louisville vacates the 2013 national title, does Michigan win the national title?

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Louisville lost their appeal, meaning that for the first time in college basketball history, a Division I program is going to have to take down a national title banner.

The details are pretty straight-forward: If one of the three enrolled student-athletes or 15 recruits that the were determined by the NCAA to have received “adult entertainment and/or sex acts” from strippers and sex workers played in any game from Dec. 2010 through July 2014, when Louisville staffer Andre McGee was paying for girls to come around Louisville’s Billy Minardi Hall, then that game is to be vacated from the Louisville record books.

That includes 123 regular season games and 15 NCAA tournament wins.

That also includes the 2012 Final Four and the 2013 National Title.

What does that mean? How does a program vacate records and titles?

Well, they can no longer do anything to officially reference winning that title. Banners come down. Record books must be changed. For all intents and purposes, Louisville must never again acknowledge that their run to the national title — which included Kevin Ware breaking his leg in the Elite 8 against Duke, a marvelous comeback in the Final Four against Wichita State and one of the most exciting halves of basketball in NCAA tournament history as Luke Hancock and Spike Albrecht went shot-for-shot — took place.

It doesn’t, however, mean that Michigan, whom Louisville beat in the national title game, won the 2013 National Championship.

This not like the Olympics. A silver medal does not turn to gold when the official winner is ruled a cheat. Michigan still lost that game in the eyes of the NCAA. Louisville did not forfeit the win. They just … also lost.

There is no winner.

Officially speaking, as of today, no one won the 2013 national title.

Louisville’s NCAA appeal denied, 2013 title banner to come down

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The NCAA announced on Tuesday morning that Louisvile’s appeal of NCAA rules violations has been denied.

The penalties are the results of an NCAA investigation into a former assistant coach and member of the basketball team, Andre McGee, providing players and recruits with strippers and sex workers at on-campus parties in Billy Minardi Hall, the Louisville basketball dorm. Louisville, in their appeal, referred to the penalties as “draconian”.

The NCAA did not agree.

“Louisville must vacate men’s basketball records in which student-athletes competed while ineligible during the 2011-12 through 2014-15 academic years,” the NCAA’s statement on Tuesday read.

The most significant and relevant piece of information here is that Louisville’s 2013 National Title will be vacated along with their 2012 trip to the Final Four. In total, Louisville will have to vacate 123 wins, which includes 15 NCAA tournament wins from 2011-2015, the seasons in which players that have retroactively been ruled ineligible played in games.

For the first time in college basketball history, a national title will be wiped from the record books. Michigan, who lost the 2013 national title game, will not be named the national champion.

“From here, we will officially remove the formal recognitions from our facilities,” interim AD Vince Tyra said, “but not from our minds.”

The Cardinals were placed on probation for four years when the initial penalties were handed down in June of 2017. They have also been hit with scholarship reductions and restrictions on their recruiting while being forced to pay back the money they received from conference revenue sharing as a result of the NCAA tournament wins. That number will be around $600,000, the school said in a press conference on Tuesday.

“I cannot say this strongly enough: We believe the NCAA is simply wrong to have made this decision,” interim president Greg Postel said.

These penalties were announced before the NCAA did any investigation into allegations that were made against the program during the FBI’s investigation into corruption in college basketball. That investigation, which determined that an agreement was made between an Adidas executive and a member of the Louisville staff to funnel $100,000 to the family of five-star recruit Brian Bowen, eventually cost Rick Pitino his job.

Pitino has repeatedly denied knowledge of the parties that took place in the dorms. Before this title was vacated, he was the only Division I head coach to lead two different programs to a national title; he won the 1996 title with Kentucky.

Pitino was charged by the NCAA with failure to monitor an employee, one of the four Level I violations that the NCAA found in their initial investigation. Louisville contested the NCAA’s finding that Pitino had “violated NCAA head coach responsibility legislation”. Plausible deniability is no longer a defense for head coaches in the eyes of the NCAA. In an effort to prevent the punishment for violations from being dumped on low-level staff members, the NCAA changed their rules to state that head coaches were at fault for anything that happened in their program under their watch whether the NCAA can prove they knew about it or not.

“By his own admission, the head coach and his assistants did not interact with prospects from 10 p.m. until the next morning,” the NCAA said in their findings. “The panel noted that the head coach essentially placed a peer of the student-athletes in a position of authority over them and visiting prospects, and assumed that all would behave appropriately in an environment that was, for all practical purposes, a basketball dorm.”

“This arrangement played a role in creating a location where the former operations director’s activities went undetected.”

Player Of The Year Power Rankings: Jalen Brunson has overtaken Trae Young

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Jalen Brunson is the National Player of the Year.

At least that’s the way that I see it.

If the season ended today, the award goes to Brunson. As incredible as Trae Young has been and as ridiculous as his efficiency stats and counting numbers are, winning has to matter when it comes to National Player of the Year. It has to matter when it comes to postseason awards. It’s why I campaigned against Ben Simmons being a Player of the Year or first-team all-american. It’s why I said that Markelle Fultz shouldn’t be considered for any preseason Player of the Year or all-american awards.

And it’s why Trae Young, in my mind, is no longer the National Player of the Year frontrunner.

I’ve talked about this a couple of different times before, but the simple fact of the matter is that we rarely see a player that isn’t on a national title favorite win the award. The last time a player that was on a team that wasn’t at least a top four seed that won the award was in 2005 when Utah’s Andrew Bogut was the consensus Player of the Year. Before that? You have to go all the way back to 1988, when Danny Manning and Hersey Hawkins both won three of the six major Player of the Year awards. Manning played on No. 6 seed Kansas, who went on to win the title that year. Hawkins played for No. 9 seed Bradley.

As it stands right now, Oklahoma is 16-11 overall. They’ve lost six in a row after getting mollywhopped at Kansas. They’ve dropped nine of their last 11 games. They’ve lost eight in a row on the road. They are 6-9 in the Big 12. If they go 1-2 in their final three games — which, at this rate, seems like a fairly likely scenario — they could end up missing the NCAA tournament entirely.

Seth Davis made an interesting point about this on a recent CBS broadcast, and one that I think it worth addressing: He said, and I’m summarizing here because I don’t remember the exact quote, that the award is the Player of the Year award and not the Player of the Month award, and I agree to an extent. A couple of bad games shouldn’t impact an entire season’s body of work.

My response to that is that we are talking about more than just a couple of games. Young and Oklahoma have struggled for the last 11 games. That’s more than 40 percent of Oklahoma’s season to date, and there are still three Big 12 games left before the Big 12 tournament kicks off. More importantly, the Big 12 season matters more than non-conference play. Does anyone really care that Young, say, tied the record for assists in a game against Northwestern State when he lost by 30 in the Phog?

Winning is the most important thing that a player can do. In any sport. If you are the star of a team that is not winning games, you are not having as good of a season as the star of a team that is winning games. That is a fundamental belief that I have that will not change.

And Brunson?

He’s having a historically good season from an efficiency perspective on a team that may just set the record for efficiency in the KenPom era. He can dominate a game when he needs to. He can also control a game as a facilitator, getting the ball to the guys that are cooking when he needs to. Case in point: at Xavier. Donte DiVincenzo and Mikal Bridges were on fire, so Brunson made sure they got their touches.

I love Trae Young’s game. I love the way he plays. His struggles down the stretch are not entirely his fault.

But when you are not a threat to win a national title, I do not think that you can be a threat to win National Player of the Year.

Anyway, here is my top ten:

1. JALEN BRUNSON, Villanova
2. DEANDRE AYTON, Arizona
3. TRAE YOUNG, Oklahoma
4. MARVIN BAGLEY III, Duke
5. TREVON BLUIETT, Xavier
6. KEENAN EVANS, Texas Tech
7. KEITA BATES-DIOP, Ohio State
8. JOCK LANDALE, Saint Mary’s
9. DEVONTE’ GRAHAM, Kansas
10. GARY CLARK, Cincinnati

ALSO CONSIDERED: MIKAL BRIDGES, Villanova; MILES BRIDGES, Michigan State; JEVON CARTER, West Virginia; CARSEN EDWARDS, Purdue; AARON HOLIDAY, UCLA; CHANDLER HUTCHISON, Boise State; CALEB MARTIN, Nevada; LUKE MAYE, North Carolina; LANDRY SHAMET, Wichita State