Transfers are prominent topic in Division I basketball circles these days. ESPN's list of transfers over the past year is so extensive it reads like the graduation role call of a Division I Ohio high school. A handful of Big Ten coaches recently weighed in on the subject at the Big Ten's spring meetings in Rosemont, Illinois.
"We've got to make sure that this is in (the players') best interest. If their best interest is to (always) be free to transfer, then that's what it is. But I'm not sure that's how the real world works, and that's what we've talked about," Michigan State coach Tom Izzo said, per MLive.com. "I don't think it's teaching our kids what you have to do later on in life. I think you'd like to leave your job sometimes, but if there's not another job there, you're not leaving.
"Where do you go in the real world?"
Et tu, Northwestern coach Chris Collins?
"It's not heading toward a better destination," Collins said, per MLive. "No one wants to take away the rights of the player, that's not what we're trying to do. We're heading down a slippery slope, toward an ultimate free agency. Which I don't think anybody wants."
According to ESPN's account of the Big Ten meetings, Nebraska coach Tim Miles believes the current graduate transfer rule that allows players who have obtained their undergraduate degree to play immediately at another school -- such as former Ohio State forward Anthony Lee -- does not "foster or nurture accountability and other things that go with growing up" and that Big Ten coaches would support a rule necessitating that all transfers sit out a season.
So we have Izzo referencing the "real world" consequences of transferring, Collins' comments on an "ultimate free agency" and Miles' pining for a universal one-year ban on transfers. Let's unpack their thoughts one at a time.
Izzo's theory on leaving a job without having another gig lined up in the real world is a reasonable one. But that rationale does not make the situation a black and white comparison, and the real world does in fact allow you to move from one job to another if you feel your employer is short-changing you in some way or if you feel your future does not lie with your current company. And while leaving one job without another occupation waiting in the wings is certainly not ideal, if personal contentment is at stake, splitting from that job should not be viewed as a sign of weakness or personal failure.
Collins' theory of "ultimate free agency" is silly speculation; the only way that an extreme environment of rampant player movement would come to fruition is if the NCAA lifted the one-year playing ban on normal transfers.
And as for Miles' musings on accountability and a universal one-year transfer ban, forgive me for lacking sympathy for coaches who may be forced to re-recruit a player pondering a transfer, especially when said player's future replacement is likely waiting in the wings. The basic tenet of the graduate transfer rule is perfectly satisfactory: permitting players who've already garnered their undergraduate degree to pursue greener pastures at another school. Many of these players are simply seeking more playing time or increased competition at better program, with a sect of those players choosing this particular path with the hope that their next move betters their chances of playing professionally.
At least a portion of the flawed logic and proposals from Izzo, Collins, Miles and other coaches reeks of the control that they all crave over their programs. There's a difference between a player toughing it out through a difficult time and jumping ship at the first sign of hardship. It's hard to know where that line is, but force-feeding values and further player restriction into the situation is not productive path to resolving the uptick in transfers.
The power in revenue-producing programs in college athletics resides with everyone but the players (who are not paid), and in most cases the hub of that authority -- along with the hefty paychecks -- belongs to the head coach. And statistics show that those coaches have a habit of changing schools at a higher rate than players do.
So, is it concerning that players are transferring at a high rate? Maybe.. But I haven't seen a resolution that benefits the players and the programs. But I do know this: placing further limits on player movement is not a prudent answer to the problem, especially not on players who have done everything they've been asked to do in graduating. If anybody should be rewarded with more flexibility, it should be those kids.