The graduate transfer rule has been applauded because it rewards academic achievement and empowers student-athletes in a system that traditionally favors the interests of coaches and universities. At the same time, concerns have grown among some prominent coaches who believe college sports may be entering an era of high-profile student-athlete free agency.
“I don’t think it is a good precedent for us to set, and I don’t think it’s good for what we are looking to do,” Michigan State men’s basketball Coach Tom Izzo said in general about the rule during a recent Big Ten coaches’ teleconference. “The negatives could far outweigh the positives. I really, really do believe that.”
There was nothing untoward or surprising about O’Brien’s decision to transfer with two years of eligibility remaining. Several Maryland players took issue with the communication style and philosophy of Coach Randy Edsall in his first season; 11 other players also have left the program since season’s end for various reasons. And O’Brien, the 2010 ACC rookie of the year, found himself fighting for his job in an offense unsuited for his skill set and facing the prospect of a third offensive coordinator in three years in 2012.
O’Brien yearns for a fresh start, much like one another former acclaimed ACC quarterback, Russell Wilson, received when he graduated from North Carolina State and transferred to and starred at Wisconsin this past season. In men’s basketball, 15 players have been eligible to play immediately this season because of the rule.
Izzo’s criticism of the process may seem odd to some, considering he recently has taken advantage of it. Brandon Wood, an all-Horizon League guard at Valparaiso last season, graduated from the Indiana school and now is averaging more than 26 minutes per game as a fifth-year senior for the Spartans. Izzo said he and Homer Drew, the Crusaders’ coach last season, communicated during the transfer process and that he had Drew’s blessing. But Izzo remains concerned about the rule, believing that it is neither fair for schools nor players.
“Like it or not, desperate times means desperate measures, and we are going to be recruiting kids off other schools’ campuses,” Izzo said. “I just think you are putting things in kids’ minds now.”
David Ridpath, a sports administration professor at Ohio University and former president of the Drake Group, an NCAA watchdog organization, said the graduate student transfer rule is a good way for the NCAA to show that it cares about the education of student athletes, and that coaches should celebrate the players’ pursuit of postgraduate degrees. Resistance to the rule, he said, is about one thing: