One of the great things about covering and writing about sports is that almost every day you see something you never had before. Even in the most mundane of games, usually something cool or interesting enough happens to at least pique your interest for a second.
One of the hilarious – or depressing, frustrating and infuriating – things of covering college athletics is to see the degree to which coaches and administrators will contort logic to justify the absurdity that has become the amateur-academic model.
The latest example of this comes from Jeff Goodman of ESPN’s piece this week on the ramifications the graduate transfer has had on college ball. The rule, which allows players who graduate with eligibility remaining to transfer without sitting out, is one of the few on the NCAA books that is unabashedly pro-player.
So of course coaches hate it.
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One unnamed coach went as far as to admitting that he would be “slowing down the graduation process” by having his players take fewer – or no – summer classes to keep them from reaching graduation before their eligibility is exhausted.
The insanity of that is almost too much to comprehend.
“Slowing down the graduation process” is just a sanitary what of saying “manipulating an unpaid student-athlete’s course load to keep him from earning his degree in the most expeditious manner in order to help me, the well-compensated coach.”
I mean, c’mon.
Maybe the best part of it is that while at least one coach will be slow-playing his players’ graduation plans, other coaches are using academic integrity as a reason to do away with the grad transfer rule.
The argument goes like this: Almost every graduate transfer has just one year of eligibility remaining while most graduate programs take two years to complete. So players aren’t using the rule for academic pursuits nor are they actually attaining post-graduate degrees because of the rule.
To which I say, d’ok.
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Of course most of the transfers are sports-motivated, but who cares? The graduate transfer incentivizes earning a degree, which, last I checked, is a big part of the point of going to college. Even if it’s widely believed NCAA amateurism at the highest levels of football and men’s basketball is a charade, you can’t even pretend to maintain the position it’s about academics while simultaneously removing an incentive to graduate. And even if players aren’t immediately earning graduate degrees, those credits don’t just immediately disappear. If they’re halfway to a Masters, that’s a good thing.
Maybe the biggest gripe coaches have about the rule is tampering. Lists of potential graduate transfers float around coaching circles almost openly and unabashedly. Coaches complain of their colleagues reaching out to their players either directly or indirectly to express their interest should a player want to utilize the rule.
So to sum up, coaches want to restrict player movement because they can’t help themselves or trust each other.
Again, I say, d’ok.
Tampering will never go away, but you know what’s the best way to curb it?
Coaching is a tight community and that obviously won’t go over well, but if an established coach or two names names and puts the spotlight on their peers working outside the bounds, it won’t take long to make coaches think twice about messing with another program’s players.
But I understand if coaches don’t want to do that. I then also don’t really put a lot of credence to cries of tampering if coaches can’t find a better solution to it that punishing players.
The graduate-transfer no doubt can hurt mid- and low-major programs due to up-transferring. It can take away their bests players at the height of their abilities. That’s a shame for them. It will alter careers of coaches. But, to me, it’s not fathomable to say that concern outweighs taking away the opportunity for a player who has earned his degree and has an aspiration to player at a higher level.
Coaches get paid a lot money not only to coach basketball, but to deal with difficult problems. This is just one of them.