Millions tuned in to watch the Men’s March Madness Championship game. The University of Virginia (UVA) took on Texas Tech in a game that turned out to be a thrilling, seat clinching exhibition. College basketball fans witnessed UVA clinch its first NCAA Championship when they defeated Texas Tech in overtime. While it was a first for UVA, the game may have been the last for graduate transfers like Matt Mooney and Tariq Owens of Texas Tech as the NCAA aims to stop graduate transfers.
Mooney and Owens landed in the Final Four due to one of the NCAA’s rare rules that actually benefits college athletes. That rule is the graduate transfer rule. However, that rare benefit that the college athletes receive may be reduced drastically if the NCAA adopts a proposed change later this month.
The Graduate Transfer Rule
The current graduate transfer rule gives college athletes a certain level of autonomy. The graduate transfer rule allows college athletes who have completed their four-year degree and have remaining eligibility to transfer to another school and compete as a graduate transfer without having to sit out a year. The athlete must enroll in a graduate program. The current graduate transfer rule actually makes sense. An athlete who has remaining eligibility and has completed his undergraduate degree at one university should be free to use his remaining eligibility at the graduate school of his choice.
The rule allows college athletes to freely decide where to pursue their graduate education while providing the opportunity for them to continue playing the sport they love. Due to the freedom the rule provides college athletes to take control over their careers, it should come as no surprise that the rule is under fire.
Critics Issues With the Graduate Transfer Rule
Some feel that college athletes abuse the system. Critics argue that college athletes only use the rule as an opportunity to play in hopes of making it to the pros, rather than focusing on their graduate degree. Some liken the graduate transfer rule to the one-and-done rule because some graduate transfers leave after only playing one year. A study from 2012 found that only one-third of men’s basketball and one-quarter of football graduate transfers earn their graduate degree after two years. Due to this concern, a reform to the graduate transfer rule has been proposed.
The New Proposal
The proposal requests that colleges commit to providing two years of scholarship to each graduate transfer unless the athlete completes the degree in one year. In sum, the school must be willing to give up a scholarship the next year for each graduate transfer they take unless the graduate transfer finishes his degree in a year. This proposed rule change will only affect men’s and women’s basketball and football. That is right, this change will only affect the major revenue-producing sports.
If Adopted the Proposal Will Essentially do Away With Graduate Transfers
There are several issues with this proposal. One is that it is not practical to think that any graduate student will finish their program in one year. This is especially true in regards to college athletes, who are balancing the demands of their sport with academics. Another issue is that if this rule is adopted, graduate transfers will no longer be an attractive option to coaches. Most coaches will not want to forfeit a scholarship for the next season to get a graduate transfer or two. The benefits simply do not outweigh the cost. For this reason, the proposed change would drastically limit college athletes’ ability to seek opportunities as graduate transfers.
This proposal does not benefit college athletes at all. It takes away college athletes’ ability to pursue a graduate degree of their choosing while playing. Yes, an athlete could play as a graduate if he remains at his original school. However, that may still put the athlete at a disadvantage. What if the original university does not have the athlete’s desired graduate program? Now the athlete is unfairly forced to chose between their preferred graduate program and what is probably their last opportunity to play their sport on the big stage.
Another issue is that yet again, the rule unfairly affects the athletes who participate in the major revenue-producing sports. This very fact shows that the proposal has little to do with making sure athletes are getting their graduate degrees. This proposal is all about control. Proponents of the proposal want to control every move men’s basketball and football players make. There is nothing about this proposal that benefits the college athletes. It does the opposite by severely limiting men’s and women’s basketball players and football players options.
What Will the NCAA Do?
Will the NCAA keep the current system, which serves as a major benefit to many athletes? Or will the NCAA in typical fashion swoop in and severely limit the college athletes options? The NCAA will most likely do the latter. This is true especially given the fact that NCAA President Mark Emmert stated that he would not be surprised if the rule was revised.