Transfer Transgressions

First of all, SBN's decided to mess with their already pretty intuitive story editor, so if any of this appears out of whack, well, that's because I do computers the way that GBMW writes.

As a senior in high school, you have the right to choose whatever college you would like pending a shiny packet saying "accepted" across the front.  Similarly, if you want to play football on a scholarship, you can choose whatever college you would like pending an offer, and a shiny packet saying "accepted" across the front.  This much, we know.  What's important here is that, as a football player entering college for the first time, you have the ability to go to ANY INSTITUTION that wants you to play on their team as long as you meet academic requirements.  But what happens when, two years later, you decide that you've had enough of being buried on a depth chart?  Or, even more poignant, in the monopoly game of College Football, every once in awhile there's a chance card that simply says "coaching change not in your favor, advance piece to bench."  The obvious answer (too obvious, recently, for Michigan fans) is that a player can transfer to greener pastures of another program that a) wants you to play football, and b) has academic requirements that you meet.  That should be the end of the story, right?

Take the case of Robert Marve, the wayward Miami quarterback who was all but banished to Purdue.  After starting 11 games last season, he decided that he could no longer play for coach Shannon - a decision that I'm sure has many different angles but exists nonetheless.  If Marve had been a non-athlete student and come to the same conclusion over a dispute with a professor or something, he would be free to go to any school that he could qualify for academically.  As a football player, however, he was not granted the same treatment:

The release comes with conditions that don't sit well with Marve. He can't play for teams in the Atlantic Coast Conference, the Southeastern Conference or the state of Florida. It's not unusual for programs to place restrictions on the deal when a marquee player transfers.

Marve couldn't play for anyone in the ACC, the SEC, or (bizarrely) a school in the state of Florida.  I somehow doubt that non-athlete student X would be subjected to such treatment.  This is troublesome in a couple of ways.  First, it totally gives up the pretense that these are student athletes.  What if (implausible, but not impossible) Marve had decided that Wake Forest had the Accounting Program he really wanted to get into?  He could still go to Wake, but he couldn't play football.  It's been my longstanding belief that we've given up the pretense of "student" athlete for some time, however, the NCAA seems to just apply it where convenient.  We can't pay players, despite making millions off them, because they're students first and getting an education.  But you want to transfer to complete your eduction - so esteemed by the NCAA - elsewhere?  Here's a list of restrictions on schools you can't go to in the name of athletics. 

Even more troublesome is the more recent case of Josh Smith, a Colorado wide receiver who wants a better school of music.  Colorado AD Mike Bohn has granted the release of his scholarship, but only if USC wants him.  Hiding behind this shroud,

Instead, Bohn granted the release to USC only because that school met the criteria Smith said he was most interested in — it is close to home (Moorpark, Calif.) and offers the music program.

the AD has basically said "if you can get into USC you can go, but good luck doing that, kid."  Smith wants to transfer for purportedly academic reasons, and Colorado has nixed it.  Student first?  Once again, a school's athletic department looks to be running the show.  Bohn's excuse?

"It’s because of the investment that is already placed in the student-athletes. We have a lot invested in them and just don’t allow people to transfer when we feel like we provided a very solid foundation for them to succeed academically and athletically."

Oh, I see, because schools don't invest in their non-athlete students.  Nope, none of those computer labs, housing, food, RA's, etc. are an investment.  Of course, those non-athletes weren't 10th in the nation in all purpose yards last year either. 

The point I'm driving here is that institutions somehow wield this power over student-athletes that strictly applies to the "athlete" portion of their title.  Meanwhile, there are several instances where an athlete is limited in some capacity, or has something outright denied (as in, getting paid), where the school, and to a larger extent the NCAA, gets to hide behind the "student" portion of the title.  You can't have it both ways.  If the student athlete is truly a student first, then why do schools have the power to decide where a young man transfers?  Especially if  (at least the stated) reason is academics?  Alternatively, if schools want to have scholarship offers be de facto contracts to play, then they, and again the NCAA, shouldn't have the right to deny endorsements, etc.  I don't care which way the NCAA goes, but they'd better pick a side.  As Orson has stated (can't find the link), we're getting closer and closer to athletic departments being corporate entities affiliated but not controlled by the academic institutions they represent.  Note:  I'm ok with this.  However, as it stands now, students are limited because of the "student" part of their title in terms of payment, academic standing, etc. and limited by the "athlete" part of their title by not having the freedom to do what any normal student could; transfer to a school of their choosing.  The school's power to limit transfers needs to stop, and needs to stop yesterday.  Hopefully the Smith case will put the NCAA on notice that this practice is not fair to anybody.

 

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