B1G coaches shouldn't be able to restrict intra-conference graduate transfers
They might not admit to it, but schools still do it. They don’t want to come out and say it, but it’s a horribly kept secret.
Coaches restrict transfers.
They say, ‘I will only sign this release if you agree not to attend the following schools…’ Usually, it consists of a list of future opponents. If coaches can have it their way, they won’t have to worry about facing a player who could know all of their tricks of the trade.
Some might say there’s nothing wrong with that. We can get into a whole debate about whether or not a coach should be able to restrict an undergraduate transfer. I could dive into the Jay Bilas/Kain Colter argument about why athletes are not employees — a scholarship is a form of payment but it does not make an athlete an employee — which would explain why coaches have no right to basically enact a non-compete clause.
But let’s avoid that. Honestly, I can see both sides on that issue.
For now, let’s just focus on why no coach should have the right to restrict graduate transfers.
Jake Rudock’s situation, once messy and somewhat controversial, was the model format in which graduate transfers should follow.
If you’ll recall, the two-year starter was told by Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz that C.J. Beathard took his job. Rudock expressed his desire to transfer and Ferentz gave him an unconventional open release to play anywhere in his final season of eligibility. He actually expressed his desire to help him find a new home.
Rudock still had to hurdle the B1G for that to happen.
By B1G rule…
“Rule 15.01.5. Intra-conference Transfer Rules. B. Post Matriculation. A student-athlete that has signed a tender from a Conference institution and has triggered transfer status per NCAA Bylaw 14.5.2 (conditions affecting transfer status), may not represent an alternate Big Ten institution in intercollegiate athletics competition until the individual has completed one (1) full academic year of residence at the alternate (i.e., certifying) Big Ten institution and shall be charged with the loss of one (1) season of eligibility in all sports.”
In other words, Rudock had to win an appeal with the conference to be allowed to transfer to Michigan and become immediately eligible. He also had to enroll in a graduate program that Iowa didn’t offer — he pursued a Master’s in movement science to become a doctor — and wait on the Big Ten Academics and Eligibility Subcommittee to approve his appeal. Obviously, it did and the rest is history.
It’s easy to look back on the situation and say that Iowa should’ve fought harder to prevent Rudock from staying in the B1G. The two schools nearly faced each other in the B1G Championship and Rudock could’ve squared off against the defense he knew better than anybody.
But that didn’t happen. Instead, we saw the exact way in which all parties should conduct themselves in matters such as these.
Hats off for Kirk Ferentz for allow Jake Rudock to transfer to whatever school he wanted to. It says a lot about him.
— Gerrick Suggs (@coachsuggs) January 2, 2016
Jake Rudock to Michigan has been one of the rare examples of the graduate transfer rule working out optimally for all parties involved.
— Michael Bayer (@mbayer1248) January 1, 2016
A coach helped out a kid who gave four years to a program and got his degree. It’s a crazy concept, right? Then why does it seem that Rudock has become the exception and not the rule?
Rarely do we even hear about the B1G’s Rule 15.01.5. There’s speculation that it doesn’t get to that point because coaches are restricting graduate transfers.
For example, look at the case of T.J. Neal. Arguably Illinois’ top returning defender was being asked to move from MIKE to SAM linebacker, which he didn’t like. Former Illinois coach Bill Cubit said that Neal wanted to play closer to home. The move that would’ve made sense — given the proximity and philosophy needs Neal had — would’ve been for him to go to nearby Penn State and team up with Tim Banks, who left Illinois to take the Lions’ co-defensive coordinator job.
Instead, Neal ended up at Auburn, which is pretty far from McKeesport, Pa. Reports circulated that Cubit blocked Neal from transferring in the B1G. If that did indeed happen, that’s a shame.
Most coaches block graduate transfers because they have four years of knowledge of their system and the last thing they want to see is it used against them. Illinois and Penn State don’t even face each other in 2016. But that shouldn’t matter.
Coaches shouldn’t have the power to rule before the conference does. They can’t dictate what a student-athlete does after it graduates. They aren’t professional athletes with five-year contracts. A student on a full-ride undergraduate scholarship can go to any graduate school of his/her choosing without restrictions.
If a student-athlete doesn’t have a legitimate reason or path, the Big Ten Academics and Eligibility Subcommittee won’t allow the appeal. It’s as simple as that.
If any B1G graduate transfer — Neal, Geno Lewis or Akeel Lynch — was told by a coach that he wouldn’t be granted a release unless his next school was out of conference, then the system failed itself. Coaches don’t want see the player they had riding the bench go succeed within the conference. I get that it looks bad when that happens.
But look at Rudock. Instead of riding the bench at Iowa, he turned himself into an NFL prospect with the help of one of the top quarterback coaches on the planet and set himself up with another degree — he’ll be nine credit hours short — from one of the top universities in the country. Nobody, not even the C.J. Beathard-led Hawkeyes, lost in that scenario.
Coaches tell recruits and their families that they want to set them up for the rest of their lives. If they really meant that, they would stop putting their egos ahead of a kid’s best path.