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Minium: One-time Transfer Rule Will Change Recruiting and Roster Management for ODU Football and Men's and Women's Basketball


By Harry Minium

Almost unnoticed among the never-ending media speculation about when college sports will return is a looming NCAA transfer rules change that could radically alter how football and basketball coaches recruit and retain players.

The so-called "one-time transfer rule" seems certain to be enacted for the 2021-22 athletic year, ODU athletic director Wood Selig said.

"It's coming," Dr. Selig said. "And we need to be prepared for it."

Essentially, the rule will allow players from the NCAA's four revenue sports – football, men's and women's basketball and ice hockey – to transfer once without sitting out a season.

At first blush, this seems like a fair-minded reform. Coaches can come and go as they please. Yet under most circumstances, revenue sports players must sit out a year if they decide to transfer.

In non-revenue sports, such volleyball, tennis and soccer, athletes are essentially free to go without penalty. So, doesn't simple logic demand that revenue sports players be given the chance to transfer once with no penalty?

It does, but like with so much in athletics, this is more complicated than it seems.

The rule is expected to result in far more players transferring at an ever-younger age, and sometimes people forget that college athletes are often teenagers, young men and women who are just figuring out who they are.

Most Division I scholarship athletes were stars in high school who underestimate the physical and time demands of college athletics and the dedication it takes to succeed academically in college. Many freshmen have a difficult time adjusting to college and, without thinking it through, may transfer because they're sure the grass is greener elsewhere.

This makes it so much easier for an athlete to pick up and leave with the going gets tough.

The NCAA is also relying on big-time coaches to keep the system clean by not recruiting players from other colleges. I don't think college coaches are directly recruiting college players. But AAU coaches, family members, former teammates and others can get the point across if you enter the transfer portal, there's a place for you at Big Time U.

"You can't tell me that tampering doesn't already occur," ODU basketball coach Jeff Jones said.

Jones said he expects elite schools to recruit fewer freshmen and instead wait for them to mature at a mid-major school.

"What Power 5 school is going to recruit a kid who's got to learn and mature when they can get a mid-major kid who's grown an inch or two and has had a year or two to get better?" he asked.

"I read a columnist who asked why Jim Boeheim would try to recruit a great freshman when he can get a first-team All-MAC (Mid-American Conference) performer and have him be immediately eligible."

Jones wasn't picking on Boeheim, the long-time Syracuse coach who, by the way, has argued strongly against the transfer rule, saying it would be detrimental to college freshmen.

On that point, Boeheim and Jones are correct. It's been my experience that far too many football and basketball players plan to play in the NBA or NFL when in fact, only a handful will. Young kids often have unreasonable expectations.

Getting a degree should be THE priority for college athletes. But so often, the reason for transferring is because players feel like they've got a better shot at making the pros by playing in the Big East rather than the Big South.

That's not always the case, and certainly isn't with players who need time to develop. Former ODU defensive back turned wide receiver Zach Pascal likely wouldn't have played at a Power 5 school but blossomed with the Monarchs and is a key player for the Indianapolis Colts. The same is true of defensive end Oshane Ximines, now with the New York Giants.

You could say the same for Kent Bazemore (Sacramento Kings), Rashaad Coward (Chicago Bears) and Rick Lovato (Philadelphia Eagles), who flourished at ODU and likely would not have done so in the ACC or SEC.

I don't want to name any names, but so often when I've seen players "transfer up," to an ACC or Big Ten school, their playing time falls. Yes, you might get the thrill of playing once in Cameron Indoor Stadium, but you might do so playing a few minutes off the bench.

Transferring almost always leads to lost academic credits, sometimes enough to set you back an entire semester. If you're not a great fit at your new school, or if you don't get first-rate academic support, you could flounder.

Your dream of a pro career may suddenly end and if you're left without a college degree, well, that's far more tragic than not going pro.

That's why so much of the college football and basketball establishment is against the rule change. Todd Berry, executive director of the American Football Coaches Association, told The Athletic that coaches recruiting players from other college campuses "Would be a reality if all of a sudden you had a one-time transfer" rule.

The NCAA tried a middle ground years ago by setting up a process under which players with sufficiently extenuating circumstances could transfer. The NCAA was swamped with requests and coaches almost uniformly criticized it for being an uneven arbiter.

"The NCAA wants to get out of the transfer business," Jones said.

ODU basketball has been affected by transfers far more than most programs. Jones lost three players before or during each of the last two seasons.

But he's more than come up on the plus end. Jonathan Arledge (George Mason), brothers B.J. Stith (Virginia) and Brandan Stith (East Carolina) and Trey Freeman (Campbell) all turned out to be outstanding players for the Monarchs.

"It's not just a one-way street," Jones said. "We will get transfers from Power 5 schools that aren't happy with their playing situation."

Jones and first-year football coach Ricky Rahne and women's basketball coach Delisha Milton-Jones know that recruiting is not only a year-around chore, it also includes young players on your roster.

"Coaches everywhere know this is coming and are prepared for it," Jones said.

We can only hope that fans and, especially young college athletes, are also prepared.

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