Steve graduated with a degree in engineering and had several companies recruiting him. As they interviewed him, he was interviewing them. He narrowed it down to his top two choices. He decided to work for a plant where he could apply the knowledge and skills he learned in college.
Two months into the job, his boss left the company. The new boss wanted to change things. He changed Steve’s job. So Steve started looking around, found another job, turned in a two-week notice and left.
But the NCAA told Steve he would have to sit out for one calendar year before starting the new job. Well, that is, unless he was willing to go work for a smaller company. That’d be OK.
Steve pointed out that several of the people at the NCAA who insisted that he should honor his commitment had themselves switched jobs within the past few years. None of them sat out a year.
“But,” they maintained, somehow with a straight face, “we made moves that advanced our careers.”
“That’s what I want to do,” Steve told them. “The job I was promised changed. My boss left. By the way, he didn’t have to sit out a year. So why should I?”
“Because,” they told him, “you made a commitment.”
As you’ve guessed, Steve isn’t real. But Jacob Eason is real. Jalen Hurts and Tua Tagovailoa are real. And so is the hypocrisy of the NCAA.
Thankfully, that’s about to change. The NCAA Division I Council Transfer Working Group is considering bending that iron-rigid rule just a bit. According to several reports, the rule would grant three exceptions for undergraduate Division I football players to transfer with immediate eligibility:
- If the head coach leaves -- whether on his own or is fired -- the players can leave also. They just can’t follow their former coach to his new school. So Deondre Francois couldn’t be Jimbo Fisher’s starting quarterback at Texas A&M this fall. But he could be Florida’s starting quarterback.
- If the school receives a postseason ban. In some cases, they already can transfer without sitting out. But the work group is looking at expanding that rule. So Shae Patterson, who transferred to Michigan after Ole Miss got socked with sanctions, might be able to play immediately.
- Walk-ons could play immediately. This makes complete sense because they aren’t getting any benefit other than a spot on the team. But the same coach who isn’t willing to give his kicker a scholarship can block him from playing immediately elsewhere.
The work group also is reportedly looking at taking the power away from the coaches and schools. So A.J. Turman wouldn’t have needed a release from Kirby Smart to play wherever he wanted to.
This would be progress. It needs to go farther.
Take the case of Jacob Eason. He was 16 years old when he committed to play for Mark Richt and Mike Bobo at Georgia, three time zones away from his home in Washington. First Bobo left to become head coach at Colorado State. (Did he sit out a year?) Then Richt was fired and resurfaced at Miami.
His decision to leave Georgia and transfer to Washington was just some whim. He lost his starting job to Jake Fromm due to an injury. Chances are he wasn’t going to win it back. Eason has put in two years of hard work. He’s not just taking his ball and going home. He made a decision that was best for him, or at least that he thinks will be best for him.
Eason wouldn’t start over Jake Browning, a senior. But why shouldn’t he be able to play some as a backup? Mind you, he might not even want that. He might rather have the extra year as a potential starter by redshirting. But he should have that choice. And what it Browning gets hurt? Eason just might be the one who gives Washington the best chance to win.
I’m for reasonable compromises rather than eliminating the rule entirely. Maybe there could be a two-year minimum before players transfer without having to sit out for those players who don’t fall into one of those three other exceptions. Or give them one free transfer so they’re not just bouncing from year to year.
It’s not going to lead to chaos. First of all, most Division I teams have only a few scholarships available. They can sign 25 players a year and have no more than 85 on scholarship at any one time.
It’s an archaic rule. It’s time for change.