Monday, August 27, 2012

High Transfer Numbers Show 'Me First' Culture

UCONN's Alex Oriakhi was one of the most highly-touted transfers this offseason (

The days of watching your college team’s athletes wear their school’s jerseys for four years are gone.

Many of them follow the money to the NBA before their four years in college, but there is another epidemic sweeping college basketball. It’s one thing for a player to leave for the NBA when the potential and buzz surrounding his game is the greatest, but college programs also have to worry about players just looking for a change of scenery.

CBS Sports basketball writer Jeff Goodman posted a transfer list back in April that included more than 445 players. That number means, on average, more than one player on every team in NCAA Division I basketball will transfer this year. Unfortunately this isn’t new, and the elite programs are not exempt from players wanting to leave. Duke, UCONN, Kansas, Wisconsin and Michigan all had players transfer from their programs this offseason.

Some cases can’t be helped. A player doesn’t always mesh with their coach or fit in with the program or university. Sometimes, it’s better to part ways and let him try again somewhere else. But more likely it seems that players transfer because they want to play right away. That is what Virginia head coach Tony Bennett believes and told the Washington Post last April.

“It’s an epidemic, without a doubt,” said Bennett in an interview with the Washington Post. “I think players have always been anxious to play, I really do. But when they thought, ‘I don’t know if this is the right place,’ the advice was always ‘Wait your turn. Stay put.’ But the times of waiting and being patient, well, it’s a different time.”

It’s the new culture of college basketball. Players want to show off their skills with the hopes of being noticed by an NBA scout, and to do that you have to be on the court. But what about using your first year or two to play behind a great player at your position to study and learn from him? The value of learning and battling for positions is lost in today’s game.

It’s hard to pinpoint the cause in the culture change. The rise of AAU basketball, where players flood to the spotlight and personal stats are more important than team victories, most likely played a factor. John Calipari and Kentucky’s method of winning with freshmen has probably played a role as well. If underclassmen see other underclassmen playing right away, and having success, then they strive for that too.

Another rule that contributes to the high number of transfers each year is the one that allows players who will graduate from their university to transfer, and play right away, with one year of eligibility remaining. This offseason, 28 of the transferring players on Goodman’s list have graduated and are transferring to use their remaining year. This is a rule that new Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby has recently come out to share his opposition while touring Big 12 schools before the football season starts.

“Not one of my favorite rules,” said Bowlsby in a Kansas City Star article last week when visiting the University of Kansas. “I think it kind of has the taste of a hired gun. And … more often than not, there’s somebody that’s been there for three or four years, that’s been waiting for their chance to play. And now they’re gonna be taken out by somebody that’s playing a last year from another school.”

Bowlsby made these comments during football season, but his words can easily be applied to basketball.

Regardless of which is the biggest factor, the high number of transfers doesn’t look to be declining anytime soon. School pride and prestige ranks lower than personal stats in a player’s hierarchy, and until that changes, hundreds of athletes will find new homes each year.

So when you see a player finish his four years of playing at one university, cherish it. He is a dying breed. 

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