For the past couple of weeks, I’ve railed against the way the NCAA’s transfer rule is currently set up.
Over and over and over and over again. Frankly, it’s tiresome. I write the same thing every single time. “School A and/or Coach B abused their power by preventing Player C from transferring out of the program in yet another example of what’s wrong with the NCAA.”
Today’s will be differently. Slightly.
On Wednesday afternoon, Jeff Goodman of CBSSports.com published a column that tried to explain exactly why some of these players have their transfer denied. And in the case of Southern Illinois’Treg Setty and Western Kentucky’s Vinny Zollo, the answer is simple: their grades aren’t good enough. Setty has a GPA hovering around a 2.5, while Zollo checks in with a 2.4. All things considered, those aren’t terrible grades to get. Both players are freshmen, and maintaining a B- average during your first semester in college when you are a scholarship basketball player is far from awful. It keeps them eligible to play, which, in the end, is all that really matters for a first-year player that still believes they are on the fast-track to NBA superstardom.
“It’s detrimental to me,” Zollo told CBSSports.com. “I can talk to other schools, but those restrictions make it difficult for anyone to take me right now. I don’t think it’s fair and don’t understand why they are doing it. I’m eligible by the NCAA to transfer and should be fine.”
The problem that Zollo doesn’t understand is that neither player has a GPA of 2.6, and that last couple of tenths of a point are so important.
According to the APR, if a player leaves the program for any reason — including a transfer — with a GPA below 2.6, the program gets docked a point. The way the APR is measured is complicated (a very good breakdown of what got UConn in trouble can be found here, and that should give you a clear understanding of how the APR is measured), but the gist is that if a program averages a deduction of about four points every year, they will end up finding themselves below the requirement of a four-year rolling average of an APR of 930.
What program wants to risk that?
Missing out on the postseason can be devastating. Look at what’s happening to UConn. The Huskies have been arguably the best program in the country over past 13 seasons, winning three national titles, advancing to a fourth Final Four, sending countless players to the NBA and continually hanging banners in the always-tough Big East. But with a postseason ban looming for the 2012-2013 season, the UConn program is on the brink of collapsing. Granted, there are mitigating factors — Andre Drummond and Jeremy Lamb may have entered the draft regardless, Jim Calhoun’s health problems didn’t change — that exacerbate the issue, but the bottom line is that next season could end up setting the UConn program back a decade.
A 2.6 GPA is not a terribly difficult goal to achieve, and the result of allowing a player to transfer out of the program with less than a 2.6 is detrimental to the program as a whole.
I don’t blame the AD’s in either of these cases one bit for denying the player’s release for a transfer, especially since both schools have made it very clear to their players they will be released if they get a 2.6. Zollo even got it in writing.
The fact that schools are allowed to hold players hostage by restricting where they can transfer and remain on scholarship is unfair and a terrible rule that needs to be changed. But the APR isn’t exactly a perfect rule, either, and if losing a player to a transfer means that the school in question will get dinged on their APR score, than I think it is within reason to allow the school’s to protect their own interests.
“It puts you in a precarious situation,” Mario Moccia, SIU’s athletic director, said. “All we’re saying is get a 2.6. If we just let them go, kids aren’t going to get the grades.”
This isn’t a secret. It’s not difficult to figure any of this out. Googling is easy. Asking your high school or college coaching staff is even easier. And 2.6 GPA’s are not that difficult to get, especially for a student-athlete.
Allowing schools to have control over where their players can transfer is unfair. But enabling players to walk away and leave their old program on the verge of a postseason ban while the school can only stand and watch is also unfair.
In this case, blame the system. Don’t blame Southern Illinois or Western Kentucky for protecting their programs.
Rob Dauster is the editor of the college basketball website Ballin’ is a Habit. You can find him on twitter @robdauster.