Want to Play at a Different College? O.K., but Not There or There

By Vico on June 8, 2013 at 1:21p

Bo Ryan is no stranger to absurd transfer restrictions

When an athlete chooses to transfer, three sets of rules can be involved: those of the N.C.A.A.; those of the conference in which the university competes; and those that accompany the national letter of intent, a contract that athletes sign while still in high school to announce their intention to attend a university.

“It’s entirely slanted to the coach’s side,” said Don Jackson, a lawyer who runs the Sports Group in Montgomery, Ala., and who has represented dozens of athletes attempting to transfer to a university of their choice. “Once the student-athlete signs that national letter of intent, it’s essentially a contract of adhesion. They have limited rights.”

The current issue at stake is Wes Lunt, the Oklahoma State transfer who was essentially told by Mike Gundy to transfer to Illinois (but is also considering Louisville). The case of Robert Marve, the former Miami Hurricane who transferred to Purdue, is also considered. The issue of transfer restrictions is most prominent for college basketball, as Bo Ryan knows all too well.

The article concludes with some proposed remedies.

John Infante, an N.C.A.A. analyst for athleticscholarships.net who has a background in compliance, suggested a one-time exemption for athletes who have completed their first year to transfer without penalty. Ed Cunningham, a former football player, an ESPN analyst and a documentary filmmaker, said athletes should be able to transfer anywhere without penalty after two or three seasons.


“I don’t believe in pure free agency,” he said. “But you have to have common-sense conversations about this stuff. It’s going to change. It just is. It’s just so antiquated. Look at Oklahoma State. That’s an awful lot of power for a football coach to have over a young man’s life. He’s a kid. I wish we would remember that.”


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AndyVance's picture

It's a tough line to draw - on the one hand, "free agency" is a really bad idea, and an especially bad deal for the schools as they invest a considerable about of time and money in recruiting, signing, enrolling and coaching these players. Having those students on the team for at least a year or two, in theory, makes some of that investment worthwhile, I suppose, but the rules need to serve as something of a deterrent to keep players from "team shopping" or "school hopping" as the whim strikes them.
On the other hand, these are young adults who are liable to change their minds, or discover that the flavor of the month wasn't really the best fit for them in terms of either the team, or heaven forbid, their academic hopes. There has to be a balance of both party's interests in the rulemaking - I'm not sure why the current rules are seen as not striking that balance, but I'm not an expert on the rules at play here either.

rdubs's picture

Why is it bad for college students to have free agency (as you call it) but not bad for multimillionaire adults?  The coaches can leave for anywhere, so I see no reason why players couldn't leave for anywhere.  The rules already prevent team hopping because they have to sit out a year.  The fact that teams can restrict where they go is more ridiculous than the pay issue.

CowCat's picture

You are 100% right, from a purely economic point of view.
However, I think 18 year old kids should be encouraged to stick it out and follow through to a degree in one place. Only a handfull of players actually make it to the NFL, and course credits are not easily transfered from one college to the next.

"We get paid to score touchdowns, not kick field goals"
-- Urban Meyer

rdubs's picture

I remember reading an article that looked at the rate of transfers of athletes as compared to other students and they didn't find any discernible difference.  Sometimes circumstances change and some of things may not be obvious when you are visiting, but it turns out that they aren't so great once you are there full time.  I see no reason why players should be any more restricted than other college students.  
The Vanderdoes situation is particularly heinous that Kelly wouldn't release him from his LOI.

AndyVance's picture

Your point is why I said I wasn't sure why there's a discussion about needing a rule change at all - because I thought they were already designed as a deterrent to kids hopping from one team to another, which is a good thing. The student-athlete needs a way out if circumstances warrent, but you don't want a kid pulling an Anzalone and moving from one school to the next without restrictions once he's already signed.