By Christopher B. Daly
The NYTimes adds to the pile of reasons to abolish the NCAA. The athletes who play for big-time college teams sign a letter when they are in high school declaring the name of the school where they intend to play. This was originally meant to signal to recruiters from other schools to cease and desist. But, under the iron law of unintended consequences, today’s story indicates that these letters have morphed into what amounts to a “reserve clause,” like the one that used to tie professional baseball players to their team owners. Increasingly, college players are thwarted in their attempts to transfer.
I have a certain amount of sympathy for the “student athletes” who want to switch schools, but then I realize: they are not transferring to find a better English department or more-advanced physics labs. They are acting like professional athletes in any sport who want to do what’s best for their athletic careers (not their educations).
Proponents of transfer limits say that they are put in place to prevent coaches from continually attempting to lure athletes from other universities, which could create a never-ending recruiting cycle. Critics counter that the rules make it much too easy for coaches to act punitively, penalizing athletes for changing their minds about decisions made when they were teenagers.
Coaches cannot fully prevent athletes like Lunt from transferring to any university they want. But if a coach does not grant an athlete a release, the player must forfeit any scholarship opportunity, pay his own way to the new university and sit out the next season. Meanwhile, Gundy, whose contract pays him $30.3 million over eight years, and other coaches can routinely move from one college to another with minimal consequence, often for bigger contracts after arranging a buyout with the first college.
Not only that, but the article includes the startling figure that nearly 500 mens basketball players transferred from one college to another last year.
500 basketball players switching schools!
(That’s one sport, one gender, from a sport with a fairly small roster. How many total athletic transfers take place in a year?)
Now, let’s acknowledge that, on average, these are not the strongest students on our campuses, and let’s acknowledge that transferring is disruptive and probably sets most students back somewhat.
How much sense does this make?
Again, I ask: what educational purpose does the NCAA serve?