The truth about the changes that are, and are not, coming to NCAA transfer rules

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Over the course of the week, the idea of changes coming to the way that transfers work at the collegiate level has become a hot-button topic in the world of college sports.

There are discussions going on about whether or not to eliminate the mandatory redshirt season for transferring players. There are also discussions going on about potential changes to how tampering is legislated and whether or not to change how the graduate transfer rule is applied.

I have a lot of thoughts about all of this.

So let’s get into it:

1. Barring student-athletes from transferring is wrong and you’ll never convince me otherwise: Before we get into anything that has to do with how changes to the current rules will affect college basketball, let me make one point very clear: So long as these players are viewed through the prism of being a “student”-athlete, I am against putting up barriers to transferring.

The NCAA operates in a world where college football and college basketball, regardless of how big it has gotten, is an extracurricular activity. Their argument for this is that these players are amateurs. They are students first. They cannot be paid by the school, they cannot be paid by sponsors, they cannot be paid by boosters, they do not own the rights to their likeness, etc. If that is the case, then it is wrong to argue that they are not regular students when it comes time for them to change schools.

You cannot have it both ways.

Either they’re amateur students that should not be punished for choosing to pursue their education elsewhere, or they’re professionals that can be paid in more than just scholarship money and get disincentives to leaving — a mandatory redshirt year — built into their contracts with the school.

Pick one.

Derryck Thornton transferred out of Duke after one year (Harry How/Getty Images)

2. There is no change to the sit-out rule coming in the immediate future: As it stands, there is no current proposal or vote on the table to change the rule. This uproar is a direct result of a note near the bottom of a release from the NCAA updating the work being done by the Division I Transfer Working Group. The working group is asking the Committee on Academics to conduct a survey to research what the effects would be of allowing immediate eligibility for first-time transfers that reach a certain academic standard.

This is happening because people like me have been writing columns for years blasting the NCAA for the current transfer legislation. This is the NCAA doing their due diligence. It’s a step closer to getting the rule changed, but my guess is that, at minimum, this rule change will not occur while any player currently in college can take advantage of it.

3. The impact will be muted because of the academic requirement: The exact wording in the release the NCAA sent out is this: “That committee will be asked to review several concepts, [including] an academic transfer standard for all students that would tie one-time immediate eligibility for competition after transfer to a set of academic benchmarks instead of to in what sport the student-athlete competes.” (Emphasis mine.)

Why is this being glossed over in the discussion of the impact that this rule will have?

We have no idea what that academic standard will actually be. If it is, say, a 3.0 GPA while taking enough credits to put the player on track to graduate within four years, just how many of these potential transfers are actually going to be eligible to receive immediate eligibility? And, quite frankly, if we’re talking about “student”-athletes here, wouldn’t this be the perfect way to incentivize capitalizing on the education they are being paid with?

The biggest issue with the idea that these players are being paid in scholarship money is that they are not in a position to take advantage of that education. Maybe their high school education left them under-prepared for collegiate coursework. Maybe they are bunched into classes where the professors are more concerned with keeping the players eligible than they are with actually educating them. Maybe they are slotted into fake classes, like the scandals at North Carolina and Auburn.

This would create a tangible reward for actually learning the material and doing the coursework.

And while the cynic in me knows that there will be coaches that get those professors to weigh down grades to prevent their players from leaving, there would be a bigger issue at play: Is that really the guy you want in charge of the future of a group of college kids?

Jamion Christian of Mount St. Mary’s lost five transfers this year (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

4. This may hurt low- and mid-majors, but they will be helped by the graduate transfer rule change: It’s already a nightmare the be the head coach of a program at the low- or mid-major level. I’ve written about this extensively in recent years. These coaches get punished for their ability to identify talent and develop players within their programs, whether it is a result of losing their best young players to a higher level or their best veterans through the graduate transfer rule. The quickest way for a mid-major coach to get a job at a higher level is to win big in the NCAA tournament. It’s hard to do that when a good season means that half your roster wants to leave to try and play in the ACC or the Big 12.

This rule change may make that even more difficult.

But you also need to remember that there will be changes to the graduate transfer rule coming, likely sooner than there is immediate eligibility for regular transfers. In an effort to limit the explosion of graduate transfers using that rule as a loophole to jump to a higher level, the NCAA is looking at two potential answers:

  • Forcing graduate transfers to count against a program’s scholarship numbers for however many years it would take to finish the graduate program they enroll in. If it would take that player two years to get that graduate degree, then that player would count against the new school’s 13 scholarships for two years even if he only plays for one year.
  • Graduate transfers would count against the APR score, punishing that school if the player does not complete the graduate degree or leave in good academic standing the way they would with an underclassmen that leaves school early.

Both of those options, if implemented, would reduce the number of graduate transfers on the market simply because the cost of taking them would increase.

5. It’s not going to be easy for high-majors, either: This change would be difficult for coaches at the highest level to deal with because of the expectations that comes with playing at those programs.

How many freshmen are going to be content playing five minutes a game their first year on campus? Will coaches be able to hold players accountable or punish them for poor play without risking burning a bridge? Would Marques Bolden still be at Duke or Sacha Killeya-Jones still be at Kentucky if they didn’t have to sit out a year by leaving? I don’t agree with everything in his column, but Evan Daniels broke down the fears of the coaches at that level here.

Cameron Johnson of Pitt will be eligible immediately at UNC this year (Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

6. Players are punished because coaches know that too many coaches are scumbags: At the end of the day, this really is what it comes down to.

The heart of the argument laid out in Daniels’ column is that players must be punished if they want to transfer because coaches cannot trust other coaches not to tamper with kids currently on rosters. That’s really what it boils down to, and that couldn’t be sillier or more unfair.

But I also get it.

Talent acquisition is arguably the most valuable skill to have as a college basketball coach. You might be the most brilliant basketball mind in the history of the world, but you’re not going to win too many games if you’re coaching in the ACC with a bunch of guys that should be playing in the CAA. Would John Wooden be John Wooden if Sam Gilbert wasn’t there? Would Gregg Popovich be Gregg Popovich if the Spurs didn’t land Tim Duncan way back when? Would anyone care about John Calipari if he wasn’t the world’s best recruiter?

Now think about the salaries that coaches get at the highest level, or the amount of time you have to build up a struggling program. You might lose your seven-figure salary in three years if you don’t get players in to help you win. Of course you’re going to do everything you can to get those players, even if it requires recruiting kids in the handshake line.

That said, the onus should be on the coaches with the seven-figure salaries to be able to keep their team happy.

That is the job.

So maybe they’ll have to miss on a recruit or two because they cannot lie about what their role or their minutes will look like as freshmen. And maybe they’ll have to put a little more effort into keeping up relationships with the player and his family after he signs with the program. And maybe they’ll have to deal with losing a player they didn’t expect to lose every other year because that kid wants more playing time, or wants to play a more uptempo style, or wants to be allowed to shoot more threes.

I’m not here to say that it will be easier, but being good at a hard job is why they’re paid the big bucks.

And I don’t understand why anyone would argue in favor of making things easier for the rich coaches when it comes at a cost to the unpaid, amateur students providing the labor that allows those rich coaches to become rich.

Northwestern beats No. 20 Michigan State in Big Ten opener

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EAST LANSING, Mich. – Boo Buie scored 20 points and Northwestern beat No. 20 Michigan State 70-63 on Sunday night in the Big Ten opener for both teams.

Chase Audige added 15 points and Ty Berry had 13 for Northwestern (6-2), which ended a two-game losing streak.

“Needless to say, this was a huge win for us,” coach Chris Collins said. “Coming off our performance in the ACC-Big Ten challenge, where we lost badly on our home floor (to Pittsburgh), I was really pleased with our resolve the past couple days.”

Mady Sossoko and A.J. Hoggard each had 12 points for Michigan State (5-4) and Joey Hauser added 10. The Spartans have lost two in a row, falling to Notre Dame earlier in the week.

Hoggard cut Northwestern’s lead to 64-63 with 46 seconds left. After a timeout, Buie scored on a layup with 23 seconds left.

“We got out-toughed,” Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said.

Northwestern took the lead late in the first half on a layup by Buie and never relinquished it, leading by as many as nine points.

“We put (the loss to Pittsburgh) under the rug,” Buie said. “We turned the page, just like we do with any win or loss. The season is so long you can’t get caught up on one single game. Just like tonight. We’re super happy with the win, but after tonight it’s over. You can’t dwell on things.”

The Wildcats went 21 of 24 on free throws, while the Spartans were 9 of 12.

“I was concerned about a knockout punch early,” Collins said. ‘I knew they would be revved up after the Notre Dame loss. They hit us early and got a seven-point lead, and then we settled down.”

UP NEXT

Northwestern: Hosts Prairie View A&M on Dec. 11

Michigan State: At Penn State on Wednesday night.

Miles, No. 7 Notre Dame women beat No. 3 UConn; Fudd hurt

Matt Cashore-USA TODAY Sports
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SOUTH BEND, Ind. – Olivia Miles had 21 points and eight rebounds for No. 7 Notre Dame, and UConn star Azzi Fudd suffered a knee injury in a collision with a teammate, as the Fighting Irish handed the third-ranked Huskies their first loss of the season, 74-60 on Sunday.

“I think she’ll be all right,” UConn coach Geno Auriemma said afterwards of Fudd, who went into the day averaging 24.0 points, but finished scoreless on two shots over 13 minutes.

Fudd exited in the final minute of the first quarter after teammate Aaliyah Edwards fell on her. She returned midway through the second period to play four hobbled minutes, but sat the rest of the way as a precaution, according to Auriemma.

Maddy Westbeld had a season-high 17 points and nine rebounds for Notre Dame (7-1), which bounced back from a 74-72 loss to No. 20 Maryland three days earlier.

“I think Thursday’s loss really fueled us today,” Irish coach Niele Ivey said. “We learned a lot from that game. We have incredible scorers on our team, a lot of balance offensively, but it’s our defense that’s gonna win games, so that was our focus the last 48 hours. (The players) took the challenge and came out and played with heart and defensive intensity. I feel like if we can play that way, we can beat anyone in the country.”

Notre Dame shot 56% from the field while limiting the Huskies to 37%.

“We played very badly (Thursday), but we were still two points away,” Miles said, “so it’s kind of scary what we can do when we play really well.”

Led by Miles, the Irish roared to a 41-24 lead by intermission, outscoring the Huskies 30-11 over the final 11 minutes of the first half.

Miles scored 13 of Notre Dame’s 18 first-quarter points, going 6 of 7 from the field. Westbeld provided her scoring punch after averaging 5.2 points over her previous five outings.

Lou Lopez Senechal led UConn (6-1) with 21 points. Edwards added 14.

“We didn’t win the rebound battle and that hurt us,” said Auriemma, whose club was outboarded 39-26 and outscored in the paint. 46-16. “We just didn’t have enough scoring on the court and enough people playing at a real high level to get enough buckets when we needed them.”

The Huskies got as close at 49-44 at the 3:44 mark of the third quarter, but the Irish stretched their lead back to as high as 70-53 at the midway mark of the fourth period.

Notre Dame ended a seven-game head-to-head losing streak against UConn in regular-season play, prevailing for the first time since a triple-overtime decision in March 2013.

BIG PICTURE

UConn: The Huskies faced a top-10 opponent for the fourth time this season, but this one was their first true road game. If Fudd’s injury doesn’t turn out to be serious, UConn ought to still have a chance to do what it’s done for decades: craft a resume that will make them a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament.

Notre Dame: The Irish, coming back from that loss at the buzzer to Maryland, showed that Thursday’s outcome may just be a blip on their promising season. Notre Dame matched last season’s win over No. 3 North Carolina State for the highest-ranked team it has beaten in its third year under Ivey.

UP NEXT

UConn: The Huskies host Princeton on Thursday before visiting Maryland next Sunday.

Notre Dame: The Irish have a couple apparent mismatches coming up as they visit Lafayette (2-7) on Thursday and host Merrimack (1-6) on Saturday.

Brink leads No. 2 Stanford women over No. 23 Gonzaga 84-63

Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports
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STANFORD, Calif. – Gonzaga may be rolling out an injury-depleted roster, but the Bulldogs nevertheless left a lasting impression on their West Coast rival in Stanford.

And that leads the Cardinal to wonder if the two power programs might meet again on college basketball’s biggest stage come March.

“This is a team that is a Top-25 team,” Hall of Fame Stanford coach Tara VanDerveer said. “I think if we can do it, they’re going to be in Seattle (for the NCAA Tournament).”

Cameron Brink had 14 points and a season-high 16 rebounds and Brooke Demetre made a career-high five 3s and scored 17 points, leading second-ranked Stanford past No. 23 Gonzaga 84-63 on Sunday.

The Cardinal (10-1) have now won five straight games after falling to top-ranked South Carolina in overtime on Nov. 20.

“I kind of call Brooke my secret weapon,” VanDerveer said. “She is a really special young lady, and when you have both Cam out there and Brooke, it’s a two-headed monster.”

“She has one of the highest releases I’ve ever seen, one of the quickest releases,” Brink said of Demetre. “She can shoot it, and we’ve always had confidence in her.”

Hannah Jump hit four 3s and scored 14 points, and Haley Jones had 12 points for Stanford.

Short-handed Gonzaga (7-2), limited to seven players because of illness and injuries, had won three in a row.

The Zags kept the pressure on Stanford early in the game, thanks to a 20-point first half from Kaylynne Truong.

Truong shot 4 of 9 from deep and finished with a career-high 22 points.

Brynna Maxwell contributed 19 points. Yvonne Ejim, Gonzaga’s leading scorer, was held to two points in the first three quarters but added six points in the fourth.

“We try to focus on a leading scorer and try to limit them,” VanDerveer said. “But you can’t just focus on (Ejim) because they’ve got Truong, they’ve got Maxwell. . I think we did a much better job (on defense) in the second half.”

STAT OF THE GAME

The Cardinal were able to pull away due to a strong game from beyond the arc, making 15 3-pointers on 15 of 28 (53.6%) shooting. A season-high eight different Stanford players made a 3, led by Demetre’s five and Jump’s four.

BIG PICTURE

Gonzaga: Lost its fourth straight in the series with Stanford and dropped to 1-7 on the Cardinal’s home floor. The Zags haven’t won any matchups since a 79-73 victory at home on Dec. 2, 2018. … Despite playing short-handed, Gonzaga did not yield an easy win to its higher-ranked opponent, trailing by just one point after the first quarter before fading in the second half.

Stanford: Held a 37-23 rebounding advantage. … This win marked the beginning of a crucial stretch in the Cardinal’s season. Stanford’s next two games come against Tennessee – receiving votes in The Associated Press Top 25 poll – and No. 13 Creighton, followed by the start of Pac-12 Conference play against rival California on Dec. 23.

UP NEXT

Gonzaga: The Bulldogs return to McCarthey Athletic Center to start a five-game homestand, starting with a Tuesday matchup vs. Queens University of Charlotte.

Stanford: After a two-week break for final exams, the Cardinal will continue their seven-game homestand vs. Tennessee on Dec. 18.

Top-ranked Houston grinds out 53-48 win over Saint Mary’s

Chris Jones-USA TODAY Sports
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FORT WORTH, Texas – J’Wan Roberts scored 15 points, Marcus Sasser added 13 and top-ranked Houston held on to beat Saint Mary’s 53-48 on Saturday night.

The Cougars (8-0) won twice in their first week as the No. 1 team since the final poll of the 1982-83 regular season, when Clyde Drexler and Hakeem Olajuwon led high-flying Phi Slama Jama.

Logan Johnson scored 17 points and Aidan Mahaney had 14 for the Gaels (6-3), who lost their third in a row following a 6-0 start.

Houston was the favorite to win it all in the second of three consecutive trips to the Final Four nearly 40 years ago, but lost to Jim Valvano and North Carolina State in one of the iconic championship games.

Coach Kelvin Sampson’s first top-ranked team is coming off trips to the Final Four and Elite Eight the past two seasons.

For the third straight year, the postseason path will start at Dickie’s Arena, where Sampson likes to bring his team during the regular season as prep for the American Athletic Conference tourney.

This victory in the Battleground 2k22 series improved the Cougars to 9-0 in the arena near downtown Fort Worth, where they have won AAC tournament titles each of the past two years.

Saint Mary’s whittled a 12-point deficit to a single possession when Mahaney hit a 3, and he made it a three-point game again at 46-43 with another from long range.

Roberts answered by backing down for a short jump hook before Sasser converted a three-point play to put the Cougars up 51-43.

Houston broke a 17-all tie with a 14-3 run to finish the first half, with Saint Mary’s going 1 of 11 from the field in that stretch against the vaunted Cougars defense. Both teams shot 37%.

BIG PICTURE

Saint Mary’s: Facing the No. 1 team isn’t foreign to the Gaels, who play in the West Coast Conference with Gonzaga. St. Mary’s is 2-7 against the Zags when they have the top ranking, with one of the victories coming last season.

Houston: The Cougars had no trouble in their debut with the No. 1 ranking, blowing out Norfolk State 100-52 at home Tuesday. A disciplined and tournament-tested opponent for the second game was just the threat Sampson’s club figured it could be.

UP NEXT

Saint Mary’s: Missouri State at home Wednesday.

Houston: North Florida at home Tuesday.

Clowney, No. 11 Alabama recover to beat South Dakota State

Gary Cosby Jr.-USA TODAY Sports
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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. – Freshman Noah Clowney’s breakout game – 22 points, nine rebounds, four assists and a steal – helped No. 11 Alabama recover from blowing a 20-point lead and beat South Dakota State 78-65 on Saturday night.

Clowney shot 8 of 17, including 5 of 12 on 3s, in his highest-scoring game of the season.

“We’ve encouraged him to shoot it, I’m glad he did,” Alabama coach Nate Oats said. “His senior year of high school, he started out pretty poorly from 3 then shot it 40% after that, so I kind of referenced that.”

Alabama (7-1) led 37-17 with 6 1/2 minutes left in the first half. South Dakota State (3-6) rallied to go ahead 51-50 on Alex Arians’ 3-pointer with 11 1/2 minutes remaining.

Nimari Burnett’s foul shot a minute later put the Crimson Tide ahead for good at 54-53. Alabama used a 9-0 run to pull away.

Mark Sears scored 19 points and Brandon Miller had 16 points and nine rebounds for the Crimson Tide

Alabama made 14 of its first 26 shots to build a big lead before it slipped away.

“I’m not going to call them mature, we still have some room to grow,” Oats said. “Our guys have to understand, no matter who we’re playing, even if their record isn’t great, they’re Division I basketball players, they’re good teams. Last year, we had issues with this going down the road.”

Charlie Easley and Arians each scored 17 points for the Jackrabbits. Zeke Mayo added 12 points and Matt Dentlinger contributed nine rebounds.

BIG PICTURE

Sears continues to be a force at home for Alabama. In Alabama’s last three home games – wins over Liberty, Jacksonville State and South Dakota State – he has scored 22, 18 and 19 points, making at least three 3-pointers in all three games. Alabama’s next home game comes against a Memphis team that already has two wins over SEC competition.

SECOND HALF SPRING

South Dakota State coach Eric Henderson noticed that in Alabama’s first two home games, Longwood and Liberty both trailed by fewer than 10 points at halftime before losing by 21 and 36 points, respectively. He viewed the first five minutes of the second half as critical in both instances, seeing an Alabama team using the home environment to its advantage.

Henderson stressed to his team that it had to win those five minutes to have a chance. Down 42-35 at the break, it did, and ultimately took the lead.

“They really increase the pressure, they try to play a little faster, they get downhill and they really spray it,” Henderson said. “I thought we were getting some 50-50 balls, I thought we were playing with some confidence. There’s been a lot of schools to come in here and have a good first half and it ends up being a 30- or 40-point game.”

UP NEXT

South Dakota State stays on the road to face Montana on Tuesday.

Alabama takes a weeklong break before its second game against the current No. 1 team in the nation, this time a road game against Houston on Saturday. The Crimson Tide beat former No. 1 North Carolina in its first shot at the top-ranked team, winning 103-101 in four overtimes on Nov. 27.