"I was interested in your article on Josh Smith," is how the voicemail began from a man I neither recognized nor knew. But he left his number. So I called back. What followed was a conversation about his son who had transferred from Boston College to Drake.
The man turned out to be Johnny Daniels.
His son is Jordan Daniels -- a 5-foot-9 point guard who played his freshman season at Boston College, where he averaged 6.4 points in 24.6 minutes per game. Daniels, for obvious reasons, subsequently planned to return for his sophomore year. So he went on a preseason trip with the Eagles in August 2012, at which point he realized he was in the process of losing his starting spot to a freshman. Daniels, for obvious reasons, didn't like the idea of that. So the California native decided to transfer and ultimately enrolled at Drake last January.
And that's pretty much it.
There's nothing too unique about this story, long as I'm telling the truth. It's a story about a player picking one school, playing a season, then deciding to transfer after realizing he wouldn't like the role the coaches were on the verge of assigning him the following preseason. It happens somewhere hundreds of times a year. So Daniels never seriously considered applying for a waiver when he transferred. He just figured he'd miss the second semester of last season, the first semester of this season and be eligible to play in December 2013. He also figured the preseason scrimmages he played last August would count as a full year of eligibility because, you know, those are the rules.
But then Josh Smith got that waiver last month.
Then I wrote about it.
And then Johnny Daniels left me that voicemail.
"I was interested in your article on Josh Smith."
Suddenly, the Daniels family wondered whether they might have a case, too. And this is the biggest issue with waivers in the year 2013. The lack of consistency in the process has every transfer thinking he should get one, and when Smith got one it only escalated things.
If you forgot the details, here are the details: Smith played his freshman season at UCLA, his sophomore season at UCLA and six games of his junior season at UCLA. Then he left Ben Howland's Bruins and enrolled at Georgetown. So, according to the rules, Smith should be ineligible until the end of this semester (just like Daniels), and those six games he played last November and December should count as a year of eligibility just like the preseason scrimmages Daniels played last August are counting as a year of eligibility.
But the NCAA decided to handle Smith differently.
The former McDonald's All-American was ruled eligibile immediately and given his junior season back, and when I asked a source at the NCAA for an explanation, he basically said that it was the "right thing to do for the kid." For what it's worth, I was also encouraged to view Smith's waiver more like a medical redshirt than a traditional waiver granted to a transfer, and I understand that, too. It's well documented that Smith has struggled with various off-the-court issues, and that played a role in the NCAA's decision. Again, the NCAA essentially decided that the "right thing to do" for Smith was to give him that year back and make him eligible immediately, and, if that's true, I'm completely uninterested in arguing the point.
I don't know that I agree.
But I'm not here to argue that point anymore.
So good for Josh Smith, I guess.
But try telling this story to Johnny Daniels and Jordan Daniels.
It's a hard sell because what Johnny Daniels will ask is why it wouldn't also be the right thing to not make his son sacrifice a year of eligibilty over a few preseason scrimmages, and, well, I don't know how to answer that question. I can tell him his son's case isn't exactly like Smith's, and he gets that. But is it really right to make a student-athlete lose a year of eligibilty over preseason scrimmages? If so, fine. But then Daniels will ask why Smith didn't lose a year of eligibility over regular-season games, and round and round we go.
And this is why the waivers have to go.
They're just too confusing.
I'm for allowing all players to transfer without penalty, and I explained why in the preseason. If you missed that column, here you go. But the main point of this column is to state that regardless of how the NCAA decides to deal with transfers going forward, it would be wise to eliminate the waivers because they're mostly inconsistent and completely subjective.
Why is what was right for Smith not also right for Daniels?
That's the type of question that'll never go away until the waivers go away.
Which is exactly why the waivers need to go away.