In a recent USA Today article, Coach K was asked about how rising transfer rates were affecting the overall health of College Basketball. His response was as insightful as usual:
Rodney Hood was not allowed to play this season due to NCAA rules on transfers.
“I have said, really since 1990, that we (CBB) should have somebody in charge of college basketball under the NCAA umbrella who watches this,who leads college basketball on a day-to-day basis.”
While the question was intended to be about college basketball universally, he actually brought the question a whole lot closer to home. Here’s what I mean …
The Case of Dez Wells
This year saw Dez Wells being allowed to transfer from Xavier to Maryland. Wells had been accused and charged by Law Enforcement of an impropriety that was eventually vacated for lack of prosecution. In the interim, Xavier took it upon themselves to expel Wells. Then, when he was exonerated, they welcomed him back with open arms. He was, understandably, disenchanted with Xavier and eventually settled opted to transfer settling on Maryland.
Maryland aggressively pursued a waiver of the NCAA mandate requiring a player to sit-out two academic semesters. The logic was that it was not his fault that Xavier essentially pushed him away from their program for a transgression he was exonerated of.
They won, and Dez Wells was allowed to play this year. Wells would go on to lead the Terps and actually become the face of their program, averaging 13 points per game on 54% shooting and 32% from outside the arch.
The Case of Trey Zeigler
Zeigler played for his Head Coach father at Central Michigan for his first two years of eligibility, until his father was fired after last season. Zeigler no longer felt warm and fuzzy about the school that had turned their back on his dad, so he left and was recruited by Head Coach Jamie Dickson of Pittsburgh.
Pitt embarked on a waiver that had only been successful once, in College Baseball. In awarding the waiver, the NCAA made only a modicum of precedent, but a precedent was indeed made.
Zeigler has enjoyed a good season so far this year as a back-up player. He has helped Pitt to an #8 Seed in the Big Dance. He is expected to be a pivotal player next year, his natural senior year.
The Case of Rodney Hood
When it came time to accept a college basketball scholarship, Mississippi State was an easy choice for Rodney Hood. Both his parents played there. So, even though other schools were very interested in him – even Duke – off he went to play for Coach Rick Stansbury.
Freshman year was a good one for Rodney, who was named to the All-SEC Frosh Team after averaging 10.3 PPG on 4.8 RPG.
Then Coach Stansbury, the 2004 SEC Coach of the Year, and 22 year stalwart at Mississippi State decided to retire in what was characterized as a school unappreciative of his efforts. They hired Rick Ray, a journeyman assistant coach with multiple schools.
Hood decided within the month that he could no longer be happy at Mississippi State as the situation he originally joined would be substantially changed and led by someone he had never met, let alone formed any understanding of, or trust in. He looked to programmes who had recruited him and found Coach K of Duke still very interested in him.
Coach K would say that Duke had followed his year at State and expected that “… he will have a huge positive impact on our program.” That was going to be AFTER he sat out a year of eligibility.
The Unfair Actions of the NCAA
The problem for Hood was not like Wells or Zeigler in the eyes of the NCAA. He was just another in a long line of kids who were adversely affected by a Head Coach who would leave the school, and the kids he recruited, behind.
I think it’s a strange form of betrayal by both the NCAA and the schools. Kids are wooed by schools, coaching staffs, and head coaches in an incredibly restricted type of mating dance. Everything from phone calls to casual contacts to visits to campus are controlled, and could mean the end of a coaches career if not complied with.
Then, after the student-athlete accepts the school, and he is significantly imprinted on the institution, if the Head Coach decides to leave for the greener pastures of retirement or another school, the kid is STILL locked to the school in a seemingly inexorable relationship, whether he likes the new Head Coach or not !!!
If I had whomever wrote this NCAA rule in front of me I’d have to ask:“… and THIS makes sense to you ?!?!?!”
The only contractual relationship the student-athlete has with the school is that they will educate him in exchange for his talents on the field of play, representing the school. Since the face of the school – thereby their representative – is the Head Coach, aren’t the conditions of the contract violated?
The NCAA doesn’t think so, and probably because they are too busy bungling investigations elsewhere, but maybe not. Maybe Coach K is totally correct when he calls for someone “ … who leads college basketball on a day-to-day basis.”
So, if you continue my litigious style of looking at the problem, we come to the principle of harm. I think that there is plenty of harm to point to this year. Harm, not only to the civil rights of the student-athlete, but to the schools, and indeed, even the conferences.
The Case of the ACC
Maryland was able to use Dez Wells to improve their programme well past what they were supposed to be before he was declared eligible.
Duke was not able to have Rodney Hood at their disposal when Ryan Kelly went down. It’s well documented that Coach K did not have a seasoned forward to replace Kelly. It cost Duke some losses, especially to Maryland, and possibly even theregular season championship.
The ACC did not garner it’s usual #1 Seed in the Big Dance, as it’s regular season and tournament winner was Miami. Miami was not once ranked higher, nationally, than Duke, who was STILL Seeded #2.
I’m a Duke fan and this is a Duke-oriented site, but while this argument is because the facts happen to fit Duke, Maryland, and the ACC, it could fit anywhere else in NCAA College Basketball.
The Case for Change
It’s no longer a situation where the NCAA just sweeps a scant few kids under the rug here and there every year, in what I believe is just so wrong on for so many reasons.
Now, please don’t misunderstand my position. I believe that student-athletes should ONLY be allowed to transfer with a waiver when their condition of service to the school is adversely by certain circumstances. A change of the Head Coach (and his staff) that recruited him would be paramount. Yes, there are concerns about coaches are allowed to move without penalty, so simply don’t allow the player to follow that coach.
My point is, that in a time and climate that considers stipends for some players, we need someone who would be more considerate of the kids. A dedicated CBB overseer would be someone who understood the special intricacies that are unique to basketball.
The stakes have become much higher and the only way to make a positive, student-athlete receptive, change is to appoint that someone “.. who leads college basketball on a day-to-day basis.” and understands more than NCAA Board Room power politics.
Bermuda Bob is a contributing writer for the Duke Sports Blog and an avid Duke Basketball fan. You can follow him on Twitter @TheBermudaBob
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