i was a fervent admirer of phil fulmer, but i remember that one year he had a starting center come to him and ask to transfer to school closer to his home and family in texas. from all the reports i read, it was a pure case of chronic homesickness. phil did everything he could to punish the guy. at the time it was going on, i couldn't help but wonder how other texas athletes (where phil did a lot of recruiting) were viewing phil's pettiness. not well i suspect, because i don't remember phil ever signing another one from there. maybe the entire conference ought to adopt the same attitude toward its athletes the conference has with regard to its teams. anybody can leave any time they want with no penalties, no exit fees, and no hard feelings.
It seems Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy is getting battered from all sides these days. His decision to block quarterback Wes Lunt from transferring to Southern Miss, any SEC schools, any Pac-12 schools, or to future opponent Central Michigan is being pointed to as further proof of college football’s overall hypocrisy.
From The Oklahoman newspaper: “The guy who flirted with job openings at Tennessee and Arkansas last December now won’t allow his former quarterback, Wes Lunt, to accept an immediate scholarship to certain schools. Including, irony of ironies, Tennessee.”
Even those trying to imagine why Gundy might have dropped the hammer on Lunt — example: if Lunt told Gundy he wanted to transfer closer to his Ilinois home then he shouldn’t be looking at SEC or Pac-12 schools anyway — admit that from a PR sense “the negatives outweigh the positives” for Oklahoma State’s coach.
Gundy isn’t doing anything new. Coaches have always had the power to limit departing players’ transfer options. Some use that power heavy-handedly — ex-Tennessee coach Derek Dooley once forced a player to transfer at least eight hours away from Knoxville and his home — while others refuse to stand in their players’ way. Georgia’s Mark Richt is one coach who feels “life is too short” to block kids’ paths.
“I want every young man to have a successful time in his four- or five-year wind to be able to go to college. So I don’t want to impede a guy from realizing his goals and his dreams, wherever it is.”
That’s not just talk from Richt. Georgia’s coach is so player-first that he’s at times gotten involved and tried to help departing players find landing spots in the SEC… even though it could (but hasn’t) come back to bite his team in the rear.
Still, it’s time for the NCAA to take coaches out of the mix when it comes to student-athletes’ transfer rights. If Mark Emmert is looking to kickstart his reform movement, transfer policies might be the perfect point to begin. Again.
Obviously, not everyone can be allowed to transfer without restrictions. While it might not be fair that players are bound to a school more than their coaches are, it is a necessity. If there were no transfer limitations whatsoever, a coach’s departure could lead to an entire roster’s departure from a program. On the surface that might look good for the players, but it would certainly be bad for any schools hit with such mass defections. And such a massive shift in the college sports landscape could certainly lead to a decline in popularity and in finances which could in turn hurt athletes in the end.
That said, the restrictions placed upon a player’s options could be made uniform with a single new NCAA rule stating the following:
* A player seeking a transfer must be in good academic standing at his current school at the time of his departure.
* A player cannot transfer to a school within his current school’s conference or to a school on his current school’s schedule (unless his current coach chooses to wave those limitations in some way).
* A coach who believes his player has been contacted, recruited or in any way tampered with by another school can make that case to the NCAA. If there is the slightest hint of tampering, the coach would be able to implement greater restrictions on the player’s transfer options.
* A coach taking over a new program would be able to implement his own restrictions on all of his players’ transfer options for one calendar year.
A perfect answer? No. But there is no perfect solution to this problem. The goal, then, should be to find a better solution than the one currently in place. Creating a uniform transfer policy is a start.
Athletes would have to take care of their schoolwork. They would also know their transfer options from get-go.
Schools wouldn’t have to worry about facing ex-players on opposing rosters during regular-season games. They also would not have to worry about dozens of players transferring away every time a coaching change is made.
Coaches wouldn’t have to worry about negative PR fallout over their own personal transfer policies. And, if the rule were written and enforced properly, coaches would not have to worry about rival coaches tampering with their players.
It’s time for the NCAA to adopt a one-size-fits-all transfer policy that prevents coaches from implementing their own more punitive policies. Unless, of course, the NCAA likes to keep reading stories about the hypocrisy that exists within its system.