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Coaches have reason to fret over proposed NCAA transfer reform

Purdue coach Matt Painter
Matt Painter is among the many coaches strongly opposed to the NCAA's proposal to allow one-time immediate eligibility for transfers. (AP)

As a widely respected name in college basketball, a member of the National Association of Basketball Coaches' board of directors and a key figure in USA Basketball, Matt Painter's voice carries weight in his profession.

The Purdue men's basketball coach has used that voice to "strongly oppose" a proposed change to NCAA transfer rules that would allow for a one-time immediate-eligibility allowance for any player who transfers.

On May 20, reportedly, the NCAA Division I Council will vote on whether the year-in-residence stipulation should be abolished altogether, on a one-time basis. If it passes, it could go into effect immediately, despite the pandemic.

In a letter penned by Painter, distributed to each NABC member nationwide and acquired by GoldandBlack.com, Painter wrote from the perspective of his beginnings at the lowest levels of college basketball.

"I am yet to hear any coach at any level support the immediate eligibility proposal," Painter wrote. "In fact, the consensus is that the rule change, should it go into effect, would be even more detrimental to the Divisions II and III levels."

Traditionally, transfers in certain sports, basketball and football among them, have been required to sit out a year-in-residence period of one calendar year before being eligible to compete at the school they've transferred to. The graduate transfer loophole, however, and increasingly successful waiver petitions have normalized the immediately eligible transfer, part of the rationale behind the potential allowance. The NCAA has made efforts in years past to streamline its rules and processes, and the transfer allowance would be a death knell for that increasingly absurd exercise.

"The reality is we've evolved into this waiver process where the waivers have become a creative writing exercise, and if Version A doesn't work, let's try to Version B, with a different slant," Purdue athletic director Mike Bobinski joked. "The process has become almost laughable from a waiver standpoint, so why would we perpetuate a process that really isn't based on solid ground?"

As an advocate for his own coaches, but also a conduit to the NCAA itself — at a time when student-athlete-empowerment sorts of issues such as transfer-related matters or Name-Image-Likeness have come more and more to the forefront, including politically — Bobinski understands coaches' angst, and himself takes exception to at least one component of the current structure.

"I know coaches don't like it and our coaches don't like it, and I respect and understand that for sure because of what could be the unintended or, in their case, almost certain dire consequences that come out of it," said Bobinski, whose involvement with men's basketball has been particularly extensive during his career. "But the thing that is indefensible to me is how you can have one set of rules for a group of sports, then another set of rules for another set of sports. I don't know how you can justify that."

The change, as proposed, would reportedly apply to all sports. Presently, football, men's and women's basketball and baseball are part of a small group of sports for which the sit-out requirement is in place. Big Ten athletic directors have strongly advocated for a consistent standard among all sports, Bobinski among them.

"I think the time will come," Bobinski said of the one-time allowance. "Whether that time is right now (during the COVID-19 outbreak) ... I don't know if that's the best call but in general I can tell you the Big Ten athletic director group has been very much in support of providing that one-time transfer opportunity across the board and I personally salute that position."

Revenue-sport coaches in basketball and football will cringe at the thought of widespread roster instability, considerable retention concerns, endless year-to-year recruiting and the very real possibility of increased impropriety.

Speaking to football, former Georgia and Miami (Fla.) coach Mark Richt painted an ugly picture.

He wrote on Twitter: "I know, I have an idea. You recruit and develop players and when I think they’re good enough I will poach them from your roster! Welcome to what the new normal will look like in college football!"

On the basketball side, Michigan State's Tom Izzo and West Virginia's Bob Huggins are among others who've voiced grave concerns over the new world order that may come with freer transfers.

“I think what’s going on is dead wrong and this immediate transfer thing is ridiculous,” Huggins told the Tribune-Review of Western Pennsylvania.

“Maybe if those (NCAA) guys making decisions over there in Indianapolis had to see kids make really horrible decisions because they were convinced to do that and were allowed to do that by our current structure, I think maybe they would have a different idea about the whole deal, too — if, in fact, it is true they do care about student-athletes.”

On Twitter, college basketball TV personality Dick Vitale described Izzo as "furious" over the proposal.

Painter hasn't made any public comments on the proposal, but suggested in his letter to the NABC membership that the adverse impact of transfer reform would be all-encompassing.

"Make no mistake — the proposal would bring free agency to men's college basketball," Painter wrote in his letter to the NABC. "Every classification of student-athletes — both current and prospective (recruits) — would experience uncertainty."

"The annual roster turnover would make college choices more difficult for high school prospects, and current student-athletes contemplating transfer would have less certainty with which to make decisions.

"As a coach, the ability to team and lead a program would be more difficult. And perhaps most significantly, remaining student-athletes would be left in an untenable situation in the likely event of a mass exodus of teammates in a single off-season."

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