Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski, an active iconic figure in sports, made headlines this week when he said Division I transfers should be treated equally without exception.
"There should be no exceptions," Krzyzewski told ESPN.com's Dana O'Neil. "Everybody should have to sit out, that includes a fifth-year player, just to make it equal."
"If [the NCAA wants] to let everybody play right away [after transferring], then let everybody play right away," Krzyzewski added. "Everybody should be treated the same. I don't understand why there are exceptions to this rule."
So, to summarize, Mike Krzyzewski, arguably the most powerful man in basketball at any level, is OK with all transfers having to sit out a year or all transfers being allowed to play immediately. He just wants a clear-cut rule, one that will eliminate questions and remove the NCAA from the business of trying to determine which student-athletes should and should not receive a waiver to play immediately.
I agree with Coach K -- as long as the NCAA someday reaches his latter conclusion.
Yes, the transfer-waiver situation has gotten ridiculous. Some kids get them. Others don't. And it's not always clear why. But eliminating waivers and making every Division I transfer sit an entire season isn't the answer. The answer is to stop restricting unpaid amateurs and let players come and go as they choose, you know, like every other unpaid amateur who attends college in this country gets to do.
Simply put, I'm against restricting unpaid amateurs. (And, apparently, so is the NCAA at most levels because only student-athletes in high-profile sports -- i.e., football, men's basketball and three others -- are restricted.) So, for me, this argument starts and stops right there. But what's most frustrating is all of the reasons people give for why eliminating restrictions on Division I transfers would equate to the WORST THING EVER because, man, I don't buy almost any of those reasons.
The one I hear most often is that it would create "free agency" in college athletics.
To that, I say, why should I care if it does?
But I'll also tell you that I just don't think such is true.
Have you ever transferred from one college to another college?
It's a total pain in the ass. Transferring nearly always puts you behind academically because some classes won't transfer properly. In addition, you have to relocate, leave behind friends, possibly a girlfriend or boyfriend, so on and so forth. So transferring is never ideal. And that's why I genuinely believe most student-athletes wouldn't do it, because most student-athletes are happy right where they're at or, at least, most student-athletes wouldn't think it's worth it to move.
Bottom line, I reject the premise that eliminating restrictions would create "free agency."
But even if it did, again, why should I care?
The scenario most envision is a scenario where high-majors would essentially recruit from mid-majors and low-majors, just pluck the best of the best each and every year. In fairness, I agree, that would probably happen. But guess what? It already happens! And, even if it happened at an accelerated rate, why is that necessarily a bad thing?
Are you about protecting schools or creating opportunities for young people?
I'm about creating opportunities for young people.
So, for the sake of the conversation, let's say there's a kid who is just an OK prospect out of high school and can only muster an offer from Stony Brook. This is a kid who forever dreamed of playing at a high-major, and he thinks he's good enough to play at a high-major. But, for whatever reason, he hasn't yet been able to convince a high-major coach of that by the time he graduates high school.
Consequently, the kid signs with Stony Brook.
Then he grows four inches and develops a jumpshot.
Then he's a legitimate All-American candidate after two years.
What would be so bad about that kid at that point accepting an offer to transfer to Ohio State or North Carolina or Kansas to complete his eligibility? What would be so bad about that kid at that point, after two years of hard work and development, taking advantage of an opportunity to fulfill a lifelong dream?
(Question: Why would you be against that? Answer: Because it would hurt Stony Brook and schools like Stony Brook? Question: And since when do you care about Stony Brook and schools like Stony Brook? Answer: Umm ...)
I hope you realize that low-majors and mid-majors have forever been a launching pad for people -- it's just that those people are typically coaches. So if you don't have a problem with a coach succeeding at the low-major level or mid-major level and creating an opportunity to compete at the high-major level, I can't understand why you'd have a problem with players doing the same. At least coaches can be additionally compensated to stay put. Players cannot. So why restrict student-athletes when coaches aren't restricted at all? And don't tell me that buyouts are what restricts low-major and mid-major coaches, because the number of buyouts that have prevented a low-major or mid-major coach from accepting a high-major offer can probably be counted on one hand.
Maybe one finger.
Either way, you get the point.
So, yeah, I'm down with Coach K. The NCAA needs to fix its transfer-waiver problem as soon as possible. But the truth is that there's only one right and fair way to fix it, and that's by letting the unpaid amateurs, each and every one of them, operate without restrictions like all other unpaid amateurs in this country are free to do.