NCAA Basketball has been steadily rising as one of the more popular college sports in America, with attendance numbers rising and the TV ratings up from the annual NCAA tournament. Even at the University of Alabama where football reigns supreme, the attention to the Men’s Basketball program has increased. It helps when you have a coach like Anthony Grant who can generate a lot of excitement around a program and actually deliver by winning big games.
But as exciting as Anthony Grant tries to make his basketball program look, it doesn’t make him immune to the growing problem of player transfers. He’s already lost junior center Moussa Gueye (Valaparaiso) and sophomore guard Trevor Lacey (NC State). Grant has also been on the receiving end of the transfer process, scoring freshman forward Michael Kessens from Longwood and sophomore guard Ricky Tarrent from Tulane.
But Alabama isn’t the only school suffering from the transfer problem. In fact, according to CBSSports.com’s insider Jeff Goodman, nearly 425 players have been granted transfers out of their original school in 2013. Over a third of these players are listed as freshman. If you add sophomores to the list, it makes up almost 75 percent of the transfers on the list. Goodman also notes that in 2012, over 450 players transferred out.
Why is this a problem? First of all, college basketball already loses popularity points for ”one-and-done,” the popular term for a rule that college player can apply for the NBA draft after he has spent a year in college. This obviously causes the best talent in the sport to not last very long in the college game as they will be already recruited heavily by NBA scouts.
But it gets even worse with the heavy number of transfers now. Talented players like Alabama’s Lacey leave their program and end up really causing disappointment with the program.
What makes it even worse is that it creates a virtual “free-agency” within the NCAA. When these players request transfers, the coaches then compete to get them to come to their school, basically starting the whole recruiting process over again. Only this time, they have some experience in the college game, creating a “resume” of sorts.
Obviously, the NCAA has its rule about students who transfer: A player that transfers cannot participate in the sport for a whole year. But with so many players transferring lately, are players cutting their losses and thinking that a year sitting out is worth the trouble? Obviously it isn’t enough of a disincentive for players to transfer out. So, the NCAA and its institutions need to do something to hinder these transfers. Here’s a few ideas to think about that could help limit the problem:
1. Expand the basketball recruiting process. The NCAA doesn’t like to give coaches and institutions a lot of power when it comes to recruiting in any sport. But the uniqueness of college basketball, where players are leaving school to transfer or go pro almost calls for a unique system for colleges to recruit players. Give teams the ability to start talking to players earlier in their high school career. An early mindset will create a sense of duty to complete more than one year of college. Allow coaches to interact with players more. Seriously. More game attendance. More one-to-one conversations.
2. Encourage players to make better decisions about their colleges. Let’s face it: College kids are probably the most indecisive bunch of people ever. Many change majors two to three times during their career. Others simply have trouble deciding what to have for dinner. But most of these transfer players are leaving because they don’t like where they are, or the grass is greener somewhere else. To combat that, run ads and pull a PR campaign to encourage players to make the right choice when they leave high school. Caution them to think long and hard with all factors in mind. This will encourage students to make a better decision from the get-go.
3. Institutions need to invest money on making their program better. That is if they haven’t already. Expand basketball arenas and make improvements to facilities. Update any out-of-date equipment. In general, put some money into the program to encourage players to stay. If you make improvements, players will see that as a sign that the athletics department sees the program as valuable, so fewer will consider transferring out if the best days of the program are yet to come. Plus, this encourages attendance. When Alabama put a new center-court video board up, people came in to simply experience the new atmosphere.
We can’t eliminate transfers altogether. But 450 transfers in one year is way too high. We have to find a way to curb these players into staying with their original team. Otherwise, the offseason is going to look a lot like the NBA’s. If we ever get to that point, then college basketball will be hitting an all-time low.
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