Is an unpaid apprentice or intern an “amateur” or is it a person gaining training and experience for future pay?
The Belt recently put up a piece saying that the NCAA should loosen transfer rules to encourage amateurism. I believe they are wrong about both the nature of amateurism and the effects of loosing transfer rules would have on the armature nature of college sports unless some other things change.
I think the Belt’s article is a good read. It’s interesting and the discussion about transfer rules needs to be had but I believe that leaving everything else the same and easing transfer rules for athletes will hurt, not help, any aspects of amateurism left in college sports.
It will definitely take away from the “student” role in student athlete if done in a vacuum.
Let’s list some of the issues the Belt has with transfers
Even with changes to that problem, there are still many barriers. As an undergrad, a player has to sit out a year if they choose to go to an institution of an equal playing level (i.e. FBS to FBS.)
This is a way of preserving a student in “student athlete”. A kid heading to a new school will often have to take on a slightly larger course load up front to ‘catch up’ on classes which may not have transferred over. That first year they need to adjust to a new campus, new people, and potentially catch up on course work.
Bull Run Solution to losing a year when you transfer:
Offer all NCAA athletes one extra “redshirt” year for a transfer. A kid transferring after his second season would have to sit, but he would still have two seasons left to play and a year to get up to speed at the new school.
Key to all this is that players no longer have to gain their coach’s permission to explore the transfer market either, which again, is a positive development, but at the cost of having their scholarship stripped if they decide not to go.
I completely agree with this aspect of his thinking. Too much power rest in the hands of coaches and administrators in the ongoing relationship once a scholarship is accepted.
But again, I disagree with the solution of saying “this third year engineering student should transfer and have one year to play at his new school plus catch up and graduate. This only puts the power in the hands of the NEW coach and AD.
The Bull Run Solution to kids being held hostage to scholarships:
When a kid accepts a scholarship to a university they are guaranteed by that school a term of scholarship regardless of what the athletic department does. If the student is no longer a student athlete for a reason outside of their control they can still finish their degree.
If you come in as a freshman you have five years of education at the school, period. If the coach leaves and the new coach does not want you, you still have five years. Heck if the kid just stinks and can’t help the program the coach can let him go and he can remain a student.
If you transfer as a junior you have three years to finish, regardless of what happens.
These students would not, however, count against the teams NCAA defined limit.
The exceptions would of course be there if (1) the kid was not keeping their grades up, or get into trouble with behavioral rules.
A normal job market operates where if someone is presented a better opportunity, they’re able to take it without repercussions.
And here I think is an acknowledgement by the author that this solution is NOT a way to save amateurism. When you start comparing things to the professional job market we’re not talking amateur anymore.
If a player decides to change their major and finds a school with an open roster spot that has better resources for that major, they should be able to go there, with no restrictions. Like any other student would be able to.
What you’re saying is “if they want to go for free to another school” and then trying to compare that to normal students who don’t go for free.
If Billy really wants to cut over to pre-med and go to a different school he can do so, right now, in the same way any other student can do it.
If he wants to do it for free, as a student athlete, then there are some extra conditions. Because the privilege of free college does come with some provisos.
Players can have non-football reasons or motivations for wanting a change of scenery.
And they are allowed the same “non-football” transfer as any other student...
Loosening the restrictions on transfer eligibility could potentially solve a number of different problems, including the notion of paying players (make the player an independent contractor), the spectre of bag men (who would lose their power because their pitch suddenly loses its focus), and overloading recruiting classes.
In my opinion it will exacerbate both of these issues, not alleviate the problem.
Bag men will shift from going after top tier prep players to freshman who had an amazing first year. And “player pay” will become a factor either way, and when it does, you will have Big universities saying “do what we want or transfer to a G5 that can’t pay” while at the same time approaching G5 players and saying “we’ll pay you more”.
It can still correct the mistakes it made, and keep its amateurism intact, if it simply allows for players to treat it like a business too.
Again, when you start bringing “private sector” and “like a business” into it you’re no longer talking amateur.
If the NCAA was REALLY serious about fixing this the biggest single thing they could do is tell the NFL and NBA that they either adopt a farm system model like Baseball and Hockey, a system which gives prep players a third way to the pros (a paid way), or that the NCAA will sever the relationship with those leagues.
So... Let me sum up...
The Bull Run Solution:
1 - Forced bench year on transfers, no exceptions, but that students get +1 years of eligibility on their first transfer. Kids can transfer for whatever reason, to whatever school they want but they must sit a year.
2 - A Scholarship offer is for five years, period... If the department or coach want’s to end a kids participation on the team the school will still honor the scholarship
3 - The NCAA will not allow access to any professional sports league that does not have an adequate farm league with a level for kids coming out of High School (like single A baseball)