Success in sports isn't always purely about talent. Talent is a necessity, no doubt, but it tells only half of the story. Ask basketball players why some talented players never make it -- or why nominally talented players do -- and they likely will confirm that success is as much about "fit" as it is about the level of talent one possesses.
Fit isn't only about how a player fits into an offensive or defensive structure. It's also about academics, whether that player gets an opportunity to have the right role with his team, and whether that player can gain the confidence he needs to be successful (along with talent, confidence is the biggest reason why a player succeeds or fails).
When a player doesn't truly fit his current team, he looks elsewhere. It's tough to transfer schools -- trust me, I have done it. A player usually transfers because he is unhappy with the fit. Sometimes it's about there being too many guys at a position, or that a player wants to step up or down in level of competition, or a player gets in trouble with grades or off-court issues. Sometimes a player just can't play under a coach's system or deal with his temperament. Asking for your "release" is actually the biggest grown-up moment of a college kid's life.
From Greg Anthony (Portland to UNLV) to Wes Johnson (Iowa State to Syracuse), to Rotnei Clarke (Arkansas to Butler) this year, there has been no shortage of high-profile transfers in college basketball over the years. And there is no doubt that kids leave their current school far too quickly these days.
Still, there has been a call by some to change the transfer rules. Traditionally, a player seeking a release has to sit for a full year in order to play at his next school. This has rubbed many the wrong way for years, as the coach of the school the player is leaving actually still has control over where a player can transfer. Some have called for players to not have to sit out a year. Others have said that there should be no restrictions on movement, especially with the coaching carousel that occurs every year.
However, I feel strongly that transfers should have to sit out a season before being able to play for their new teams. Here are my eight proposed rules for how the NCAA should handle the transfer policy, designed with the intention of protecting both coaches and players during the transfer process.
1. A player must sit one full year if he transfers.
Coaches and schools are being held to a higher standard, not just with academic progress rate (APR) -- which will keep more teams out of the NCAA tournament this season -- but also with old-fashioned wins and losses. For the sake of building a team and establishing roles, coaches can't function with players being able to leave without some sort of penalty. If the APR is a push for retention and graduation, this rule must stay in place. While calls for athletes receiving additional financial compensation will continue, a scholarship is still an unbelievable financial gift. It has to be valued, as should the player's word.
2. Rule No. 1 is null and void if a coach leaves or is fired.
Coaches would sign off on this because many believe it will help them stay employed. Additionally, it's the fairest way of dealing with the coaching movement and players who sign up to play more for a head coach and less for the school itself.
One addendum to this rule is that a player must be in good academic standing to transfer and play right away if his coach is fired.
There also should be a two-week "exclusive window," during which a player can't look elsewhere to transfer. This would give new coaches time to get settled, meet with every player and make their pitch. At the end of those two weeks, then and only then must a player commit to staying or ask for his release. The two-week window can be waived only by the new coach.
3.A scholarship will remain a one-year contract, with a mutual option.
This is normally a mere formality, but in the case of a transfer it makes total sense. There needs to be a window after each season in which a scholarship renewal can be signed, and it's at that time that a player must make his decision to remain at a school. There also can be a window for coaches after summer school if players struggle with grades. If the player intends to transfer, it's at this renewal time that a form must be submitted. The coach can't revoke a scholarship (it would automatically renew) if the player is in good academic standing.
4.Change the terms of the coaches' ability to dictate which schools a player can be released to.
It's very simple: A player should have to have a conversation with his current head coach about his desire to transfer. After that desire is relayed, a simple transfer form must be filled out and sent directly to the athletic director's office with a request for a transfer. The only power a coach should have is whether to grant an in-conference transfer.
Otherwise, if the documents are filed, a blanket release is automatically granted as long as the player is in good academic standing. If the player isn't, the discretion lies with the coach and AD, because they may not want to retain a kid who can't cut it academically. (I believe there should be an academic amnesty once every two years for APR. This would allow schools to ship off kids who aren't making it academically, without hurting their APR).
5. Eliminate the ability for a transfer to appeal in order to play right away due to family illness or other circumstances.
This may sound callous, but if we stop, take a breath and think about it: Why should a player be rewarded with playing right away when he transfers to a school closer to home? Leaving home in the first place was his decision, so he should be accountable for that decision (understanding that sometimes these circumstances develop over time). Additionally, if there is a sick family member involved, it doesn't seem like the worst thing in the world for a player to get to spend more time with them during the year he is ineligible to play, instead of participating in games.
6.No player should be able to transfer midway through his first season.
Too many freshmen become disenchanted with school, the bench or just the adjustment to the college game, so they choose to transfer at their first semester break. The idea that a kid knows where he stands or if he fits into a program without playing an entire season is ludicrous. Just as regular students aren't fully prepared for college classes, freshmen basketball players in many ways aren't ready as players. So they freak out, blame the coach and leave without seeing the natural maturation process take place. If a player leaves at the semester break of his first year, he still must sit a year (on top of the second semester of his freshman season).
7.Eliminate the graduate school loophole.
This rule allows players to graduate early, or on time with the help of summer school, and transfer to another school that offers a grad program their initial school does not offer. The problem with this rule is that it creates a total disadvantage for high-achieving academic schools. Additionally, if the object of the APR is to promote retention and graduation, when a school does its job and graduates its players, it should not be punished by having its players be allowed to transfer free and clear. The only possible remedy to this rule is to allow all players a fifth year of eligibility if they graduate on time and are fully enrolled in grad school.
8.Waive the letter of intent automatically if there is a head coaching change.
Just as with Rule No. 2, if a head coach leaves, the red tape that exists right now should be easily cut. A new head coach should, however, receive the same two-week window I proposed above to convince a player to stay signed to his chosen school. Any "poaching" within those two weeks, while difficult to prove, should eliminate the guilty school from being able to sign a player. The two-week window here also can be waived only by the new coach.