Blog Entry

A college graduate is an adult. Right?

Posted on: December 23, 2011 1:20 pm
 
The staredown between Saint Joseph's coach Phil Martelli and former Hawks center Todd O'Brien -- an SJU graduate who transferred to UAB but hasn't been allowed to play -- is being lost by both people. That's fairly clear. O'Brien is losing his final season. Martelli is losing the public relations fight. Why Martelli is doing what he's doing, we don't know.

But here's something that seems indisputable:

Going forward, the NCAA can -- and should -- make sure this doesn't happen again. And it would be so easy, too. So easy, and so fair. It would take the decision out of a coach's hands, even a coach who (clearly) feels he is justified in playing such hardball with a former player.

I'm not here to backtrack on what I wrote a few days ago about this. I'm not here to rehash it and defend that position all over again, either. I wrote it, I stand by it, and if you want to know why I still stand by it, read that story again.

But the NCAA's rule should be altered, dramatically, to reflect the real world. The real world being this:

Anybody who does what Todd O'Brien has done -- graduates from college with eligibility remaining -- shouldn't need anyone's permission to play somewhere else.

Again, make no mistake: I'm not saying Martelli is wrong here. NCAA rules allow him to decide whether to release a graduated player to transfer and play somewhere else, and he made the decision not to release O'Brien. Why? I have no idea, but he has his reasons for playing hardball with O'Brien, and without knowing those reasons, I'm not going to do the easy thing and scream that Martelli is wrong.

Is he wrong? Again -- I have no idea.

But I know the NCAA rule is wrong.

A college graduate is an achiever, a winner. More importantly, a college graduate is an adult who has fulfilled the obligations asked of him -- that being, to honor his scholarship by graduating.

The next Todd O'Brien who graduates with eligibility remaining shouldn't have to ask for Daddy Coach's permission to transfer. He should be able to tell the coach, the school and the NCAA that he has fulfilled his obligation, he has graduated, and since he has eligibility remaining, he's going to spend that eligibility somewhere else.

I mean, isn't that sensible and fair? I'm trying to find a hole in my proposed rule change, and the only one I can come up with is this: It could, in some folks' eyes, open the door to younger players who want to transfer. If the NCAA says that a college graduate should be free to transfer with no penalty incurred and no release needed, what's to stop a sophomore who is on track to graduate from making the same demand?

I could be snarky here and say, "Nothing should stop a college sophomore in good academic standing from being able to transfer wherever he wants and play right away." And honestly, there are days I believe that to be true.

But this isn't the day for that argument, and I'm not concerned about the slippery slope that might be created for underclassmen by allowing the next Todd O'Brien to do as he damn well pleases after he graduates.

The NCAA could make this very simple by making the rule very clear: If you've graduated college, and you have eligibility remaining, you're a free agent. You've done everything asked of you, so here's your reward: Free agency. Go play wherever you want, assuming you're wanted there in return. You've earned the freedom to choose. Go.

Underclassmen? This rule isn't about you, but it's for you as well. Because if the day comes that you've graduated -- with eligibility remaining -- you too would be free to transfer.

Obvious, right? Fair, too.

Of course it'll never happen. It just makes too damn much sense.




Comments

Since: May 17, 2008
Posted on: December 27, 2011 3:26 pm
 

A college graduate is an adult. Right?

You can't have "free agents" in the NCAA.  Same thing is happening at high school.  Where do you think a kid will go if he has another year of eligibility?  Will he go to college in Wyoming or Florida?  How about if the kid is good, will he go down to DII...no and if he was from DII, he might just go up to DI.
We are not really talking about true "free agency" here although I understand your concern SFFAN2416.  Here, you would only be a "free agent" IF you actually complete your degree AND have eligibility left -- a fairly rair occurence with the top players unfortunately.  Plus, under the current rule, a part they could keep, is you are only allowed to transfer if it is to a school with a graduate program that your current school does not offer.  Finally, remember that all of the NCAA rules on recruiting/improper benefits, etc would still apply so its not like the player is "going to the highest bidder".  Thus, merely letting a graduated player, with eligibility remaining, to transfer to a school with a graduate program not offered by his current school, without sitting out a year hardly brings us closer to a "professional athlete in college".



Since: May 17, 2008
Posted on: December 27, 2011 3:22 pm
 

A college graduate is an adult. Right?

 It makes no difference if O'Brien is a graduate - simply being a graduate does not mean one automatically makes sound decisions
Whether or not it is a "sound decision" is irrelevant...it is not any coach's place to determine whether or not a player is making a "sound decision" about whether or not he wants to transfer and I really doubt that Martelli is preventing this transfer out of concern for what is best for O'Brien.  "Simply being a graduate" automatically means you are an adult and free to make your own decisions about your life whether or not your coach thinks they are "sound decisions" or not.




Since: May 17, 2008
Posted on: December 27, 2011 3:19 pm
 

A college graduate is an adult. Right?

When a scholarship is offered, the athlete understands that he has a fully-paid ride through 4 years (or less, like O'Brien) of university. In return the athlete understands his committment is 4 years play, and the coach expects the athlete to completely fulfill that committment. The coach recruits with the understanding that the athlete will be there for those years, and his recruiting decisions are built around that committment
That is not strictly true -- scholarships are a  series of 4 1-year commitments and can be revoked by the university at anytime.  It is, in fact, a year to year committment by the school.  Second, here, O'Brien fullfilled his "committment" as he was available to play 4 years of ball--the only reason he has eligibility left is the school (martelli) elected to redshirt O'Brien for 1 season.  So, in effect, Martelli is attempting to change O'Brien's 4 year committment into a 5 year committment, for a player he does not even appear to want on his team.  Its not like O'Brien played major minutes last season (what, something like less than 2 minutes per game) or Martelli has come out and said to O'Brien "hey, I want you to be a big part of our rotation this year", or that he's even trying to prevent a good player from transfering to a conference rival or 1 time opponent for the upcoming season. Instead, he appears to be denying the release for no other reason that to be an a** to O'Brien.

O'Brien fullfilled his 4 year committment to the school as (1) he was available to play all 4 years and (2) upheld his end as a "student-athlete" by actually earning his degree.  There is no reason, therefore, why O'Brien or players in the same position should not be allowed to transfer and play immediately.




Since: Mar 22, 2011
Posted on: December 24, 2011 1:27 am
 

A college graduate is an adult. Right?

I agree totally with SFFan - no free agency in the NCAA. And the fact that O'Brien has graduated should have no bearing on either his or Martelli's decision. When a scholarship is offered, the athlete understands that he has a fully-paid ride through 4 years (or less, like O'Brien) of university. In return the athlete understands his committment is 4 years play, and the coach expects the athlete to completely fulfill that committment. The coach recruits with the understanding that the athlete will be there for those years, and his recruiting decisions are built around that committment.

To lose a player in the summer, after recruiting has been completed months before, could have a devastating effect on next years team, which had been counting on O'Brien to be there. I suspect there is a lot more to this situation regarding O'Brien, which Martelli does not want to bring to the public. I will say that had I been Martelli, and O'Brien quit my program in the summer with no advance notice, I would not release him from his scholarship either.  It makes no difference if O'Brien is a graduate - simply being a graduate does not mean one automatically makes sound decisions.

There is lots wrong with the present NCAA, but this talk of graduates with remaining eligibility allowed to freely transfer would make the system even more ludicrous.




Since: Jul 26, 2011
Posted on: December 23, 2011 10:23 pm
 

A college graduate is an adult. Right?

Good article but I do not agree with it.  You can't have "free agents" in the NCAA.  Same thing is happening at high school.  Where do you think a kid will go if he has another year of eligibility?  Will he go to college in Wyoming or Florida?  How about if the kid is good, will he go down to DII...no and if he was from DII, he might just go up to DI.  Free Agents in the NCAA would create just one thing that gets us closer to a "professional athelete" in college.  Now if you want to talk about that (professional college athletes) then we might be able to straighten out quite a few problems. My take by the way is the kids are giving alot to the schools and not getting much in return as not all athletes get full scholarships.



Since: Dec 20, 2011
Posted on: December 23, 2011 7:13 pm
 

A college graduate is an adult. Right?

Fair enough. I have no problem saying I agree w/ most of what you wrote there about the NCAA rules. Actually a refreshing angle on the story, where you were able to contribute something meaningful to the discussion w/o taking sides. I'm still curious why you would call SJU ethical for not explaining exactly why they're "playing hardball", since they have to have a reason for doing so, and it's obviously not to protect O'Brien. It makes me think that whatever their reasons are, they must think it could make them look even worse if those reasons were to come out. But either way, I gotta say I respect and agree w/ your opinion here. Good article.



Since: Dec 20, 2011
Posted on: December 23, 2011 5:12 pm
 

A college graduate is an adult. Right?

Although many do not agree with the NCAA transfer rule, the rule has validity.  The NCAA does not need a free agency basketball league, a league where student-athletes come and go as they please. Hopping from school to school.  This would cause more problems. People may not like the rule, but it also preserves a balanced system that protects students from predatory programs and institutions from leaches.  Just imagine Duke, North Carolina, and other top programs cherry-picking players nationwide. Lets not kid ourselves; it would happen. O'Brien is only one student-athlete of many.  No rule is perfect, but some rules serve a larger purpose.  Things have worked out fairly well for O'Brien.  He finished a degree at an institution that is quite expensive. It worked out for him, as a student.  At the end of the day, the NCAA has to make decisions that serve the majority.  O'Brien needs to move on and figure out what he is going to do with his life.  Because it is not in the NBA.   

People may not like the rule, but it is an NCAA rule that preserves a degree of balance and integrity.  

Hey! Lets just end the whole thing and start a minor league system.  Then, athletes (not students) can get paid and chose to use or not use their income on education.  Then, the players can do what they want.  Oh! We already have that.  It's called the NBA.  



Since: Aug 14, 2007
Posted on: December 23, 2011 4:02 pm
 

A college graduate is an adult. Right?

I forgot to add the misspelled words in my comment,  was for the purpose of seeing if  the ones that comment on your articles are really able to comprehend the difference.



Since: Aug 14, 2007
Posted on: December 23, 2011 3:55 pm
 

A college graduate is an adult. Right?

After reading the article, I totally agree on your position. After reading the comments, I also, as a first time coomenter on  you collumn understand why you share the emails you get and your rebuittals ( assuming as hell ) . Personally the last 2 articles i read that you wrote were to the point and very understanable. Perhaps you need to start a  a reading class formmots of your commenters as they do  seem to grasp what you say in print.  Now do me a favor please and list all the other assinine rules the NCAA  has on its book..that would realy be a interesting and great column but it probably would that a series of articles



Since: Apr 3, 2007
Posted on: December 23, 2011 2:30 pm
 

A college graduate is an adult. Right?

Last I checked, all these college players are over 18 and were adults.  Last I checked, all of us adults have to play by the rules of our respective spheres of life.  The argument that a college grad is an adult and therefore shouldn't have to ask anyone to transfer is absurd.  Adulthood plays no part in it.  What would be arbitrary would be for the NCAA to require undergraduate adults to wait a year before they can transfer, and those who have graduated to freely come and go with their eligibility without restrictions.  Doyel's position is ridiculous. 


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