Pitt transfer Cameron Johnson committed to North Carolina in Tuesday afternoon despite the fact that his former school has refused to release him to any ACC program.
Johnson is a 6-foot-8 forward that averaged 12 points and shot 42 percent from three for the Panthers as a redshirt sophomore last season. He’s a perfect piece for a North Carolina team that lacks shooting and may need to play quite a bit of small ball this year.
He was one of six Pitt players to leave the school this spring, but what makes him unique is that he graduated in three years while taking a redshirt. In other words, Johnson has two years of eligibility remaining and, in theory, is eligible to play immediately.
Except that Pitt is not going to let him go without a fight.
Pitt and head coach Kevin Stallings did not grant Johnson a release to transfer to another ACC school, a move that had our Scott Phillips calling him a “tone-deaf clown“. This is where it gets complicated: Pitt has the right to block a player from transferring to any program they wish — it’s, in theory, a mechanism to dissuade from tampering — which would force that transfer to pay their own way during their redshirt year.
But graduate transfers aren’t required to take redshirt years. They are, by rule, allowed to transfer without penalty, which may mean that the NCAA can override Pitt’s lame attempt at blocking Johnson’s transfer.
It will be interesting to see how this plays out and whether or not the NCAA will do the right thing and tell Stallings where he can stick Johnson’s release. Johnson even told ESPN that he and his family would be willing to make this a legal issue.
“I started this process believing that having graduated from Pitt, I should have instantly been granted an unconditional release,” Johnson said in a statement. “I feel that should be available to any student-athlete who earns their degree. Unfortunately, Pitt has continued to try and block my wish to attend North Carolina. Now that I have learned that their attempt to make me sit a year before competing at an ACC school is against NCAA rules, I see no reason why the faculty committee, or anybody associated with Pitt, should be able to reverse a ruling they already made.”
What that means is the only guarantee here is that Pitt and Stallings are going to be the ones to look bad here. Blocking a student-athlete from transferring to the school they want to transfer to is always, always, always going to end up being a black mark on the school and that coach’s reputation.