Why allegations against Texas A&M from a transfer should alarm all of college football
Santino Marchiol alleged multiple NCAA violations against Texas A&M in a report released Tuesday
When rules change, there are always bound to be unintended consequences.
The college football world saw one of those revealed Tuesday following in a situation that could open the floodgates for how potential NCAA violations are reported.
Former Texas A&M linebacker Santino Marchiol -- now at Arizona with former Aggies coach Kevin Sumlin -- accused new TAMU coach Jimbo Fisher of multiple NCAA violations in a report by USA Today. Those allegations include cash payments from linebackers coach Bradley Dale Peveto to current players (in order to host prospects on unofficial visits), coaches running hands-on practices and study sessions far beyond the eight-hour-per-week limit allowed under NCAA rules, and a potential misdiagnosis of an ankle injury that resulted in pressure to play through pain.
No matter whether you believe Fisher's new program is as dirty as a pig in mud or Marchiol has an axe to grind, the important part of the story is how these allegations came about.
Marchiol, a redshirt freshman, didn't turn Texas A&M in to the NCAA -- at least, not directly. He detailed allegations against his former school in a waiver request to Arizona's compliance department as an attempt to get the NCAA to clear him to play for the Wildcats immediately.
Because new transfer legislation adopted by the NCAA Division I Council in April have provided that opportunity. Players can gain a waiver to play immediately if "the transfer is due to documented mitigating circumstances that are outside the student-athlete's control and directly impact the health, safety and well-being of the student-athlete."
Again, documented mitigating circumstances.
Think about what that actually means. The intent of the rule is to allow players -- in circumstances that are less-than-desirable for reasons they don't control -- to have a little bit more flexibility in their eligibility. That's great in theory, right?
Here's the problem: If Fisher's attempt to change the culture at Texas A&M resulted in a misdiagnosis of Marchiol's injury, that has clearly impacted his health. Therefore, it must be documented. Don't blame Marchiol. He's just following the rules by reporting it. If an injury to a player occurs during an unauthorized practice, it must be documented in a transfer waiver request. Bam, there's an NCAA violation delivered on a silver platter.
If a player -- willingly or unwillingly -- gets cash from a coach to host a prospect on an unofficial visit, that directly impacts the well-being of the student-athlete. After all, his eligibility is at risk. Let's document that, too.
Could Marchiol be out to get Texas A&M? Possibly. I don't know, and quite honestly, I don't care all that much. That's between him and the new staff. It's not the point here. The bigger point is that Marchiol opened the eyes of an unintended consequence of legislation that is designed to benefit the student-athlete but could come at the expense of institutions that players are departing.
What if a player does hold a grudge against a program or staff member, wants to do what's best for himself and wouldn't mind taking that program or staff member down in the process? It's simple: File a waiver for immediate eligibility and spill all of the beans. That player might not gain his eligibility, but if the NCAA comes calling at the old school, it still serves part of its purpose, right?
This puts enormous pressure on coaching staffs around the country. They have to make sure that the corners they do cut -- and let's be honest, there are plenty -- are not able to be documented. In Marchiol's case, text messages from current Aggies defensive coordinator Mike Elko are just one lane of the documentation road for NCAA investigators to go down. If those trade secrets are kept in house (in this case, say, with a burner phone), coaches better hope they don't have any disgruntled players. If they do, those trade secrets can get out by filing a simple transfer waiver request.
Greater flexibility for transfer players is a good thing. It's why the transfer working group was created and why the NCAA adopted the legislation. But unintended consequences to rule changes always exist, and Marchiol's quest for immediate eligibility uncovered a massive one that may wind up being a huge deal for not just Texas A&M but all of college football.
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