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January 23, 2010

Roundtable: Should players be free to transfer?

At the College Football Roundtable each week, we ask each member of the coverage staff for his opinion about a topic in the sport. This weekend, we will have two roundtables -- one today and one Sunday. Here is today's question:

When a coach leaves for a different job or is fired, should players "left behind" be allowed to transfer without having to sit out a season?

Olin Buchanan's answer:
I'll likely be alone in my opinion on this issue. Athletes should pick a college rather than a coach when they're being recruited, but everybody should eat food that is healthy and not just food that tastes good, right? It just doesn't always happen that way. Teenage boys -- and they are boys -- typically decide on a college based on where they're most comfortable, and that comfort usually is based on a relationship with the coach. Therefore, if a coach is fired, I think players should be able to transfer without having to sit out a season or lose any eligibility. Some would argue that the fired coach may try to direct players to another program. Well, a school would have to take that into consideration before replacing a coach. But if a coach retires or takes another job, I don't think players should be allowed to transfer without penalty. That would create huge problems. Imagine Lane Kiffin trying to coax Bryce Brown from Tennessee to USC. That's not right.

Tom Dienhart's answer:
While this sounds good in theory, it probably would be absolute chaos. When a player signs a letter-of-intent, he does so implicitly with a school -- not with a coach. Besides, I think it's a good life lesson for the players who must learn to adapt to change because it's going to be a constant in life that you can't continually run away when things don't go your way. It's all about being patient, adapting and trying to make things work out -- not running away.

David Fox's answer:
As quaint a notion as it is, recruits should pick a school, not a coach. We already saw a hint of what could happen if players were allowed to leave a school without penalty when coaches depart. When Lane Kiffin left Tennessee for USC, recruiting coordinator Ed Orgeron claims he "answered questions" from the Volunteers' early enrollees. But one Tennessee player said Orgeron encouraged early enrollees to skip class so they could be recruited by USC. Trust me: Orgeron is not the only coach out there who believes all is fair in love and recruiting. If players were allowed to transfer without penalty after a coaching change, it would be chaos. Player-poaching would be rampant. Rules would be broken. Look, I'm sympathetic to the players, too. It's certainly unfortunate they have to go through unwanted coaching changes, and it's not fair non-athlete students can transfer on a whim while athletes have to jump through hoops. Simply put, I just don't think we should allow some coaches to be able to embrace any more slimy behaviors than they already do.

Mike Huguenin's answer:
Allowing players more freedom sounds great in theory. But as with many things in college sports that sound good in theory, the reality is that it is not practical. Unfortunately, numerous recruits choose a coach and not necessarily a school, and when that coach leaves or is fired (and I'm talking position coaches here, too), a player can feel betrayed. Those betrayed do have an outlet: They can leave. But they also must sit out a year under NCAA transfer rules. Take that rule away, and I think you would see at least 10 percent and maybe even 20 percent of most teams look to leave once a coach is replaced. Is it fair to, say, East Carolina if 15 players wanted to leave after Skip Holtz took the USF job? Or to Buffalo if 10 players wanted out after Turner Gill took the Kansas job? Why should the ADs at ECU or Buffalo have to feel the pain because they made good hires in the first place? Again, it all goes back to this: Players can leave after a coach leaves. They just have to follow the rules and sit out for a season.

Steve Megargee's answer:
While it seems like a noble gesture to allow players to transfer without having to sit out a season after their coach has left, such a move would open up a rather giant can of worms. We've already heard reports that Tennessee-turned-USC assistant Ed Orgeron told Tennessee early entry candidates not to attend class so that they could follow Lane Kiffin's staff to USC. Think of what would happen if you don't have the one-year rule for transfers. After Kiffin told Tennessee's players he was leaving for USC, they conceivably all could have followed him out the door. Could you imagine the chaos that would ensue if, for instance, the entire USC, Tennessee and Notre Dame rosters had become free agents during this offseason? The current rule admittedly isn't fair to student-athletes, but it's necessary to establish some semblance of normalcy in the wake of a coaching change. And it's one more reason why recruits should pick their ideal school instead of their ideal coach when they're deciding where to play college football.

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