By Ken Reed
I want to be the first member of the Cam Johnson Fan Club.
Johnson is a former University of Pittsburgh basketball player who is trying to transfer to the University of North Carolina to play his final two years of eligibility. He graduated from Pitt in three years, summa cum laude, with 3.9 GPA.
According to NCAA bylaws, Johnson should be allowed to transfer and play immediately for any NCAA school as a graduate student. However, for some reason, the NCAA also allows schools and conferences to set their own policies for graduate transfers.
As such, Pitt decided that Johnson could transfer to a conference member school but had to sit out a year before becoming eligible to play.
Johnson is a Pitt graduate and gave three years to the Pitt program. Shouldn’t a graduate be allowed to transfer where he wants?
This is the NCAA plantation mentality at work again. Here’s how it works: coaches and athletic directors are allowed to break their contracts and take jobs at any school of their choice. Athletes, whose compensation is limited to a scholarship — despite pulling in millions in revenue to pay the salaries of coaches and athletic directors — are only allowed to go to another university if their school says they can. If their original school wants to play the role of jerk and prevent an athlete’s transfer — to all NCAA schools or only certain schools they designate — they can.
Universities simply have too much power over athletes. College kids don’t have the protection of unions or agents to argue on their behalf like professional athletes do. They’re left to fight the NCAA Machine on their own.
This whole scenario stinks. In Johnson’s case, he was recruited to Pitt by former coach Jamie Dixon, who left shortly thereafter to take the job at TCU. Kevin Stallings left his players at Vanderbilt to take the job at Pitt. Pitt’s athletic director also left during Johnson’s time at Pitt to go to Oregon State. Nevertheless, Pitt wants to hold Johnson hostage.
As Johnson wrote in a letter he released publicly this week:
“As a student-athlete, who is not a paid employee of the school, and a graduate, shouldn’t I be granted the same freedom of movement?”
Where’s the justice in this system?
Hopefully, public pressure will force Pitt to change this unfair decision.
Just last week, public pressure on Kansas State’s athletic department forced head football coach Bill Snyder to change his mind regarding his decision to not allow wide receiver Corey Sutton to transfer anywhere, and I mean anywhere. Snyder banned Sutton from transferring to all FBS (Division I), FCS and Division II schools. After heavy criticism, Snyder changed his tune and allowed Sutton to freely transfer.
It shouldn’t take heavy public criticism to change these decisions. This is a deeply flawed system that needs to be fixed.
— Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of FansPrint
- League of Fans is a sports reform project founded by Ralph Nader to fight for the higher principles of justice, fair play, equal opportunity and civil rights in sports; and to encourage safety and civic responsibility in sports industry and culture.