With news surfacing the past few days about the possibility of a one time no penalty transfer rule and the loosening of players able to capitalize on their name, image and likeness (NIL) might a player empowerment movement be on the horizon? As an avid supporter of players rights I sure hope so. It’s only fair after all. How exactly might this be implemented without coaches and schools being in an uproar?
According to an ESPN article by Senior Writer Adam Rittenberg “If adopted by the Division I council, the new waiver criteria would allow athletes in all sports to compete immediately if they are in good academic standing, not facing suspension at their original school, and receive a release to transfer.” In other words, the sports of football, men’s and women’s basketball, baseball and men’s ice hockey would join the rest of college athletics allowing a one time transfer exemption. About time. With mounting pressure from not only angry fans and players but now government officials, it’s only a matter of time before a change is implemented. However, there are concerns the most notable being…
1. The Graduate Transfer Rule on Steriods
We see it all the time with redshirt juniors and seniors who transfer from a small program to a powerhouse. Vernon Adams Jr. was the first notable player to grad transfer from an FCS school (Eastern Washington) to an established power five program (Oregon) and it sparked great debate. Some were on the side of Adams who was simply trying to put himself in the best position to help boost his NFL dreams while others were on the side of EWU who felt that it was unfair that they recruited him and developed him for the past three years only to see him transfer to a bigger school leaving them in a hole. While both arguments are valid I supported Adams and fellow grad transfers and transfers in general for one simple reason: If coaches can do it why can’t players?
All the time coaches from smaller programs who exceed expectations jump to power five jobs for a better opportunity and obviously more money. So I ask why can’t players do the same? If it’s a goal of a player to realize his dream of playing in the NFL, to help his family (something the next issue will address) then why can’t he put himself in the best position possible? Not everybody can go to an Alabama or a Clemson out of high school. Some are deemed too small, too slow, academics. Heck, even former Clemson standout Hunter Renfrow was a walk-on. Look at the case of Adams. A 5’11 dual-threat quarterback at FCS EWU. Not exactly going to set NFL scouts on fire. Height aside a lot of players in the FCS and lower get knocked for level of competition. (Something I feel is not accurate having covered D2 sports the past several years and have seen the talent and level of play) Even non-power five schools do. So you’re telling me if you were in Adams shoes and had the opportunity to not only prove yourself at the highest level of college football but at an accomplished power five program while helping your draft stock and your future you wouldn’ t take it?
On the flip side is the perspective of a coach. I can see how losing a player of Adams caliber hurts. I can see how the current transfer portal hurts. At the same time, however, there is a reason a player is leaving. I don’t know many if any players who like riding the bench. A vast majority transfer for playing time. Some like Adams do it for the opportunity. Others for academics or violation of team rules. What really intrigues and irks me is how coaches want us to feel sorry for them when a transfer puts them in a so-called bind. Excuse me but isn’t that why you get paid millions of dollars for? (At the FBS level) To recruit and have players ready to go? Maybe figure out why players are leaving your program and fix it. It’s not rocket science. What is to me is the fact coaches can leave at the drop of a feather and players who simply want a similar option can’t. And let’s please not pretend “commit to the school, not the coach” nonsense. Listen obviously go to a school that you feel comfortable at. That has a good track record and is good whatever your major is. That’s why I chose UCO. However, it is foolish to think that somebody will overlook the coach, who he or she will spend a good amount of time with. No matter how much I like school X if I don’t like coach Z I’m not going.
When coaches leave and new ones come in it puts the players in a tough situation. For example, when Paul Johnson retired at Georgia Tech and Geoff Collins was brought in so was a drastic change in schemes. Gone was the old school flexbone triple option and in was a new school spread offense. Sure if I’m a wide receiver I’m happy. If I’m a fullback or an option quarterback I’m not. I want to go where my skillset is used better. Yet unless I’m either a grad transfer or transfer down I’m forced to lose a year of eligibility while my previous coach only gains. Tell me how that’s fair? Tell me what lessons that teach young men? Coaches like David Shaw at Stanford and Gary Patterson at TCU get no sympathy from me. If you can leave without penalty NUMEROUS times why can’t players do so ONCE?
The second issue I want to quickly address is NIL. To me, it’s a win-win. Colleges don’t have to pay the players which they’re against and players such as Trevor Lawrence are able to capitalize on their name and make money off of it. If he wants to hold an autograph session and charge twenty dollars an autograph as a way of earning some extra spending money while costing Clemson nothing fantastic. The old NCAA “we’re providing a word class eduction” bull is old and has been disproven many times over. If anything look at the NAIA who have been allowing players to make money off their NIL and haven’t had any problems.
There’s really no negatives here if anything it might benefit both the schools and players. How many times have we seen players who should’ve returned to school for another year declare for the draft because of a financial situation? Maybe of those players were able to make some money off their name through public appearances, autograph sessions, etc they might’ve been able to return and improve their stock while helping their team win. Sure you might say if you pair this with the ability of a one-time transfer rule what’s stopping Joe Blow from having a monster season at State Tech and transferring to powerhouse College State, playing from day one and making money at the same time? Nothing. At the same token what’s stoping head coach of College State taking one magical season and jumping to power Tech A&M with a significant pay raise? Nothing.
Finally, this even benefits athletes at smaller schools as well and players who will still transfer down because let’s be honest not all FBS players even with a waiver will transfer to another FBS school. For example, if little known third-string quarterback and Clemson who was once a heralded recruit transfer to Division II Florida Tech who is to say he can’t capitalize on his newfound buzz and make a couple of bucks?
To me the possibilities are endless. To me, it’s about damn time.