I can honestly say that I can go either way when it comes to the graduate transfer exemption.
For those that are unaware, the rule is simple: if an athlete completes their undergraduate degree with eligibility remaining, they can transfer to another school without being forced to sit out for a year so long as the athlete pursues an advanced degree at his new school.
The rule is the reason that Arizona was able to land former Xavier guard Mark Lyons for the 2012-2013 season, bridging the one-year gap between Josiah Turner’s dismissal from the program and Duquesne transfer TJ McConnell becoming eligible to play in 2013-2014. It is also why Kentucky was able to shore up their back court depth by adding former Wright State (by way of NC State) guard Julius Mays. Brandon Wood (Valpo to Michigan State), Sam Maniscalco (Bradley to Illinois) and Jeff Peterson (Florida State from Arkansas by way of Iowa) took advantage of the rule last season.
Like I said, I can go either way on the matter.
On the one hand, I think it is fair to allow a player that has completed his degree an opportunity to transfer without having to sit out for a season. They put in the work, they should be rewarded. On the other hand, I can see the frustration that comes with developing a player for three or four years only to see them leave the program at the peak of their collegiate career.
And while any power that a school or the NCAA has over a player’s decision to transfer bothers me, I will admit that I am not totally comfortable with the precedent being set by Mays. He enrolled at NC State, couldn’t get minutes in his first two seasons, transferred down to Wright State where he spent a year developing his skill and another year building his confidence while torching the Horizon League before ultimately transferring back up to the highest level of the sport. Three schools in five years is a little much, even for a self-proclaimed, college basketball liberal.
That said, the way the NCAA is currently designed, the grad transfer rule simply cannot be changed.
At least not until the kids that play college sports are no longer referred to as “student”-athletes.
These kids are supposed to be students first, right? They are supposed to be using their athletic talents to pay for an education that is getting more and more expensive, aren’t they? Isn’t that the ideal that the NCAA is based on? Isn’t that the entire reason that basketball and football players that are responsible for generating obscene amounts of revenue — the money that has warped the landscape of college sports in an armageddon known as realignment — have to fight tooth and nail just to get full cost of attendance scholarships? Isn’t that the entire reason that the NCAA doesn’t have to pay taxes and can call themselves a non-profit?
Well, if these athletes are “students” first, then there is no justifiable reason to block their ability to further that education. These kids aren’t just transferring and auditing ballroom dancing classes. They are pursuing advanced graduates degrees. I don’t have an advanced graduate degree. I wouldn’t mind having one, though. It probably would make my potential earnings increase, just like it could help Mark Lyons’ increase his value to an employer once his basketball career ends.
Because the whole point of his scholarship to play basketball is to prepare him to go pro in something other than sports.
Look, if the NCAA wants to change how they view these athletes, than I have no problem with eliminating the rule. If they want to pay these athletes and acknowledge the fact that the reason these kids are in school is because of how fast they can run or how high they can jump or how well they can shoot, that’s fine. Make them sign a contract that stipulates where and when they are allowed to transfer. I’m fine with that.
But barring the NCAA changing their party line, there is no justification for eliminating the graduate transfer rule.