By Ken Reed

I recently wrote about the unfair way the University of Pittsburgh was treating basketball player Cameron Johnson.

Johnson, an honor student and recent Pitt grad was trying to transfer to the University of North Carolina to finish up his eligibility. The NCAA says grad transfers are legal but they leave it up to the athlete’s original school as to whether or not they will grant the athlete’s release.

Pitt was denying Johnson’s request and in the process looked silly, petty and vindictive. Fortunately, public pressure ultimately resulted in Pitt caving in and releasing Johnson. That’s a good thing.

But the most important thing is to pressure the NCAA to create transfer rules that are fair to athletes. It’s a social justice issue.

In a terrific analysis piece today, ESPN’s Jay Bilas methodically takes apart the ridiculous NCAA transfer policy and then concludes with a solution that’s right on.

Here are a few tidbits from Bilas’ outstanding piece:

• “This is about policy. The policy on transfers on the NCAA level, the conference level, and the institutional level is simply bad. It needs to be changed.”

• “If they (athletes) are just students, like any other student, how can any institution complain when a student decides to leave the school to pursue his or her education elsewhere? Whether on scholarship or not, there is no restriction for any non-athlete student leaving one school and attending another and being able to receive aid or participate in any extracurricular activity.”

• “Can you imagine a school trying to restrict the transfer of a scholarship music student or scholarship mathematician due to the investment the school has made in that student? It is similarly absurd to do the same to an unpaid, amateur student who just happens to be an athlete.”

• “The NCAA needs to overhaul its transfer rules and make them coherent and fair to the athlete. There is no legitimate reason for a school that a player is departing to have any say whatsoever in where a player goes after he or she leaves. It is simply wrong.”

• “Here is what needs to happen: The NCAA should pass rules that allow transfers to be immediately eligible to compete at another institution at the conclusion of that season’s competition. As long as there is no “in-season” transfer, all else should be fair game. Players transfer for myriad legitimate reasons, and as long as they are legal, none of those reasons are the NCAA’s business.”

Three cheers for Mr. Bilas! He has fully exposed the plantation mentality at the core of the NCAA transfer rules and outlined a clear, simple solution.

Ken Reed, Sports Policy Director, League of Fans


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