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Changes to transfer legislation can potentially change college basketball landscape

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The transfer process for Division I student-athletes is one of the most hotly-contested debates in college sports. Every time there’s a coach or school that tries to impede a player’s ability to transfer to the school of his or her choice, there’s a public outcry. It used to be only the most draconian of restrictions drew public ire, but these days, that bar seems to be lowering.

There are certainly exceptions, but the college sports world – especially those without a stake in the system itself –  seems to be moving toward more player freedom.

Now, the system itself may be moving further in that direction quicker than seemed possible.

There is a proposal “being solicited among (NCAA) members for feedback” that would allow players to transfer and play immediately once in their career, according to a report from 247 Sports’ Andrew Slater.

Players looking to transfer would need to meet a minimum GPA in order to qualify for immediate eligibility and any subsequent transfers would require a sit-out year, according to the report.

It’s obvious that should this proposal become rule, it would introduce potential chaos into a college basketball ecosystem that already is much maligned to what many call a “transfer culture.” It’s often derisively called “free agency,” but that could truly turn out to be reality in this scenario.

It’s also probably the fairest proposal out there short of cutting players in on the revenue sports like hoops and football generate.

The arguments for (mostly) unfettered player movement haven’t changed over the years. Coaches can change jobs with impunity and leave players behind with little recourse that doesn’t include sitting out. There’s inequity built into the amateur model that makes transfer restrictions in theory and practice especially harsh and punitive relative to the action.

Yes, if these rules are changed to allow players to move without penalty, things will get wild. They’ll get difficult. It will be chaotic

Those are all arguments against instituting such a free-for-all, but where that argument loses the thread, at least to me, is that they’ll be wild, difficult and chaotic for the people profiting from the system. This undoubtedly will cause major headaches for head coaches, assistant coaches, support staff and athletic departments. Those people, though, are already getting paid. And the people it will cause the most pain for – head coaches and athletic directors – are being compensated the most handsomely. Those salaries right now are buoyed by the fact the labor – players – aren’t paid. Having to juggle complex issues with a lot of moving parts and players with increased leverage doesn’t seem to be an out of line ask for coaches making millions of dollars. Or the ones “settling” for hundreds of thousands at the mid- and low-major level.

There’s no doubt that enacting a rule like this will lead to unintended consequences. All decisions do. There will be more tampering and icky ethical issues that come from this, in all likelihood. But, again, those participating in such behavior are likely to be those who are profiting from basketball and the players who play it. Restricting players’ options to rein in the behavior of coaches and recruiters is bad policy. If coaches don’t like whatever seedy stuff happens in their profession because of this rule, they could always blow the whistle.

Should this rule ever be enacted, it will be world-changing for college basketball. It’ll probably (almost certainly) be a boon for the schools up the food chain who can attract better players looking for better situations. Only in college sports would that type of upward mobility be derided rather than celebrated. And if such a change makes things tougher for the powers that be, that, as they say, is what the money is for.

Bubbles brewing with season on horizon

Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports
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INDIANAPOLIS — With the coronavirus pandemic already forcing changes for college basketball, a bubble may be brewing in Indianapolis.

Indiana Sports Corp. released a 16-page proposal Friday that calls for turning the city convention center’s exhibition halls and meeting rooms into basketball courts and locker rooms. There would be expansive safety measures and daily COVID-19 testing.

The all-inclusive price starts at $90,000 per team and would cover 20 hotel rooms per traveling party, testing, daily food vouchers ranging from $30-$50 and the cost of game officials. Sports Corp. President Ryan Vaughn said the price depends on what offerings teams or leagues choose.

“The interest has been high,” Vaughn said. “I think as conferences figure out what conference and non-conference schedules are going to look like, we’re we’re a very good option for folks. I would tell you we’ve had conversations with the power six conferences, mid-majors, it’s really kind of all over the Division I spectrum.”

Small wonder: The NCAA this week announced teams could start ramping up workouts Monday, with preseason practices set to begin Oct. 14. Season openers, however, were pushed back to Nov. 25 amid wide-ranging uncertainty about campus safety and team travel in the pandemic.

There is already scrambling going on and some of the marquee early-season tournaments have already been impacted.

The Maui Invitational will be moved from Hawaii to Asheville, North Carolina, with dates still to be determined and organizers clear that everyone involved “will be in a bubble environment that limits their movement and interaction outside the venue.” The Batttle 4 Atlantis has been canceled. The Cancun Challenge will be held in Melbourne, Florida, not Mexico.

More changes almost certainly will be coming, including what to do with the ACC-Big Ten Challenge.

“I think we’re past the guesswork on whether we play 20 conference games or more than that,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said Friday. “We’re trying to get everybody set like in terms of MTEs (multi-team events), figuring out when to play the ACC-Big Ten challenge.”

Painter, who was part of the NCAA committee that recommended how to start the season, noted part of the uncertainty stems from differing protocols imposed by campus, city and state officials.

In Indianapolis, Vaughn believes the convention center, nearby hotels, restaurants and downtown businesses, many within walking distance of the venue, could safely accommodate up to 24 teams. The 745,000-square foot facility would feature six basketball courts and two competition courts.

Anyone entering the convention center would undergo saliva-based rapid response testing, which would be sent to a third-party lab for results. Others venues could be added, too, potentially with more fans, if the case numbers decline.

If there is a taker, the event also could serve as a dry run for the 2021 Final Four, also slated for Indy.

“It’s not going to hurt,” Vaughn said. “I can tell you all the planning we’re doing right now is the same for a Final Four that’s been scheduled here for any other year. But it would be nice to have this experience under our belt to see if it can be done.”

Maui Invitational moving to North Carolina during pandemic

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ASHEVILLE, N.C. — The Maui Invitational is moving to the mainland during the coronavirus pandemic.

One of the premier preseason tournaments on the college basketball schedule, the Maui Invitational will be played at the Harrah’s Cherokee Center in downtown Asheville, North Carolina.

Dates for the tournament announced Friday have yet to be finalized. The NCAA announced Wednesday that the college basketball season will begin Nov. 25.

This year’s Maui Invitational field includes Alabama, Davidson, Indiana, North Carolina, Providence, Stanford, Texas and UNLV.

All teams, staff, officials, and personnel will be in a bubble environment that limits their movement and interaction outside the venue.

Burton eligible at Texas Tech after 2 seasons at Wichita State

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LUBBOCK, Texas — Junior guard Jamarius Burton has been granted a waiver from the NCAA that makes him eligible to play this season for Texas Tech after starting 52 games the past two seasons for Wichita State.

Texas Tech coach Chris Beard announced the waiver Thursday, which came five months after Burton signed with the Big 12 team.

Burton has two seasons of eligibility remaining, as well as a redshirt season he could utilize. He averaged 10.3 points and 3.4 assists per game as a sophomore at Wichita State, where he played 67 games overall.

Burton is from Charlotte. He helped lead Independence High School to a 31-1 record and the North Carolina Class 4A state championship as a senior there.

NCAA season set to open day before Thanksgiving

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The NCAA men’s and women’s basketball season will begin on Nov. 25, the day before Thanksgiving.

The Division I Council voted Wednesday to push the start date back from the originally scheduled Nov. 10 as one of several precautions against the spread of coronavirus.

The later start date coincides with the decision most schools made to send students home from Thanksgiving until January out of concern about a potential late-fall and early-winter flareup of COVID-19. Closed campuses could serve as a quasi bubble for players and provide a window for non-conference games.

The maximum number of regular-season games has been reduced from 31 to 27. The minimum number of games for consideration for the NCAA Tournament was cut from 25 to 13.

Teams can start preseason practices Oct. 14 but will be allowed to work out 12 hours per week beginning Monday.

No scrimmages against other teams or exhibitions are allowed.

In other action, the council voted to extend the recruiting dead period for all sports through Dec. 31. In-person recruiting is not allowed during a dead period, though phone calls and other correspondence are allowed.

The men’s and women’s basketball oversight committees had jointly recommended a start date of Nov. 21, which would have allowed for games to be played on the weekend before Thanksgiving. The council opted not to do that to avoid a conflict with regular-season football games.

The council is scheduled to meet again Oct. 13-14 and could delay the start date and change other pieces of the basketball framework if circumstances surrounding the virus warrant.

UConn’s Tyrese Martin granted waiver to play this season

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STORRS, Conn. — UConn swingman Tyrese Martin, who transferred from Rhode Island in April, has been granted a waiver that will allow him to play for the Huskies this season.

The 6-foot-6 junior averaged 12.8 points and 7.1 rebounds and started every game last season for URI, where he was recruited by current UConn coach Dan Hurley.

NCAA rules require undergraduate transfers to sit out a season, but the organization has been more lenient in granting waivers during the pandemic.

Martin, 21, is expected to compete for playing time at UConn on the wing as both a guard and small forward.