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 Fans
Sports Forum Podcast
Episode #29 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: The Honorable Tom McMillen Visits League of Fans’ Sports Forum – McMillen is a former All-American basketball player, Olympian, Rhodes Scholar and U.S. Congressman, and has a long involvement with the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sport (now called the President’s Council on Fitness, Sports and Nutrition). We discuss the state of college athletics today, given the pressures of NIL, the transfer portal, sports gambling and huge media contracts. McMillen then provides great perspective on the poor state of physical fitness our young people are experiencing today.
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Episode #28 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: A Chat With Mano Watsa, a Leading Basketball and Life Educator – Watsa is President of PGC Basketball, the largest education basketball camp in the world. We discuss problems in youth sports today.
Episode #27 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Kids’ Sports: How We Can Take Back the Game and Restore Quality Family Time In the Process – Linda Flanagan is author of “Take Back the Game: How Money and Mania Are Ruining Kids’ Sports and Why It Matters.” We discuss how commercialized and professionalized youth sports are hurting kids and their families.
Episode #26 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: How Can We Fix Youth Sports? – John O’Sullivan is Founder and CEO of Changing the Game Project and author of “Changing the Game: The Parents Guide to Raising Happy, High Performing Athletes and Giving Youth Sports Back to Our Kids.”
Episode #25 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Physical Education Should Be a Critical Component of K-12 School Design – Michael Horn is co-founder of the Clayton Christensen Institute for Disruptive Innovation.
Episode #24 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: Mental Health and Athletes: Ending the Stigma – Nathan Braaten and Taylor Ricci are the founders of Dam Worth It, a non-profit created to end the stigma around mental health at colleges and universities through sport, storytelling, and community creation.
Media"How We Can Save Sports" author Ken Reed appears on Fox & Friends to explain how there's "too much adult in youth sports."
Ken Reed appears on Mornings with Gail from KFKA Radio in Colorado to discuss bad parenting in youth athletics.
“Should College Athletes Be Paid?” Ken Reed on The Morning Show from Wisconsin Public Radio
Ken Reed appears on KGNU Community Radio in Colorado (at 02:30) to discuss equality in sports and Title IX.
Ken Reed appears on the Ralph Nader Radio Hour (at 38:35) to discuss his book The Sports Reformers: Working to Make the World of Sports a Better Place, and to talk about some current sports issues.
- Reed Appears on Ralph Nader Radio Hour League of Fans’ sports policy director, Ken Reed, Ralph Nader and the New York Times’ Tyler Kepner discussed a variety of sports issues on Nader’s radio show as well as Reed’s updated book, How We Can Save Sports: A Game Plan. Reed's book was released in paperback in February, and has a new introduction and several updated sections.
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.
Vanderbilt Sport & Society - On The Ball with Andrew Maraniss with guest Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director for League of Fans and author of How We Can Save Sports: A Game Plan
Sports & Torts – Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans – at the American Museum of Tort Law
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Ken Reed’s Author Page on Amazon