"My rule was I wouldn't recruit a kid if he had grass in front of his house.
That's not my world. My world was a cracked sidewalk." —Al McGuire

Sunday, April 18, 2021

The Make Believe Transfer Chaos

The NCAA officially announced its Division I Council voted to allow college athletes transferring in football, baseball, men's hockey and men's and women's basketball will be granted a one-time immediate eligibity. As some of the old men yelling at clouds out there like Dick Vitale call the decision complete chaos.

The three major chaos theories are I have observed (Besides coaches scared to death about their job security and not having complete control)...

1) People like Vitale believe the transfer portal is out of control and will just cause roster chaos.
2) Others believe it will destroy mid-major basketball.
3) Wisconsin Head Coach Greg Gard fears it will teach the wrong life lessons.

First, lets address the out of control transfer portal. There are currently over 1300 players in the Division I men's basketball transfer portal and counting. Just an eye popping number that is going to collapse the game.

Except it is not. First, the most recently collected data (The data is from 2019) on transfers affecting rosters shows 58 programs out of the 350 Division I teams didn't have a transfer (17% for those that love percentages), while 183 programs had no more than two (52%) and 110 experiencing three to five players leaving (31%). Yes, the data shows programs have to deal with the transfer portal but not to the point where it is literally a whole new 13 players every year like some of the exaggerators would make you believe.

The against the immediate eligibility crowd though will argue now that the sit out rule is gone, transfers will jump even higher. I will point out that those folks like Vitale (Why he is still relevant anyways?), usually love to emphasize the student before the athlete in the argument. So okay, let's look at the current state of the transfer portal and how it relates to the normal student transfer rate.

There are 350 Division I men's basketball programs which at 13 scholarships a pop means there is 4550 Division I scholarships available. Say the current 1390 players (as of this writing) in the transfer portal all transfer (because some can return), that is a 31% transfer rate. Which guess what folks is right within the typical transfer rate of normal students.

Second, this belief that mid-majors will be destroyed is something I give a raised eyebrow to. The belief that players wanting a new challenge (or some mid-majors will call it being poached) will destroy the mid-majors is something I do not buy. Heck, as some mid-major coaches point out in this article there will be a balance of those going up and those going down (Especially since mid-majors can offer shots and minutes where some players at the higher levels might not be getting and legitimately yearning for).

The life lessons argument I find humorous. What is the lesson to be learned? Stick it out in toxic situations? Be loyal to a coach who at a moments notice will not be loyal to you? Be miserable in a situation because when you made a commitment to the program you thought it was one thing and it turned out to be completely something else? 

If that is the life lesson being taught, you might as well just teach these athletes to prepare to work a job they hate for 30 years and enjoy the gold watch at the end. 

The only reasonable life lesson argument I have found when it comes to dealing with adversity comes from Milwaukee's 97.3 the Game's Brian Butch (Yes, that Brian Butch). He pointed out on his show Nine to Noon with John Kuhn recently that if players run from actually competing for shots and playing time that will have an impact on a players future pro prospects. It makes some sense since most DI players have a shot to play professionally in the NBA, G-League or overseas. At the pro level, they are not going to care about a players feelings towards shots or playing time. They are going to care about the contribution to the team and what are you doing to get better. Butch summarized the players who jump from program to program to chase shots to improve those pro aspirations usually backfires. He has saw it time and again in his pro career. The players finally had to face competing for playing time, could not handle it and were sent home.

Maybe the whole sky falling argument just comes down to fear because this will change the game. It will change for sure how college coaches recruit. It has already begun to create this perception that players are now hired guns (Total irony here with that analogy considering these hired mercenaries will be paid--for now at least--in tuition along with room and board while the NCAA makes billions and the schools make millions off the relationship). 

What I hypothesize is what this rule change will do is create more and more of the perception that the God-like coach and his outstanding culture may not be so outstanding after all. Coaches may be exposed and have to deal with a change that will only at best zero-sum benefit them. There is one thing I have observed in my time when I covered college hoops is most coaches only love changes that benefits them. The best response to that is adapt or die because the times are a changing.

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