- Eamonn Brennan, ESPN Staff Writer
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The college hoops offseason has thus far been defined by poorly handled transfers, primarily thanks to Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan. Ryan got all draconian on Wisconsin transfer Jarrod Uthoff's permission-to-contact list, things blew up, Ryan gave a poorly received (and poorly thought-out) explanation on "Mike and Mike in the Morning", and in general things really escalated quickly.
But there was one positive from all this sturm und drang: It allowed us to think and talk about the details of the transfer rules. A wider awareness was reached. People were even a little bit outraged! This is a good thing! The way transfers are handled -- or, more accurately, what the transfer rules allow coaches to do -- is an outrage. The rules need to be changed. Simple as that.
Of course, just because the transfer rules allow coaches to restrict schools doesn't mean coaches are required to restrict schools. Nor does it mean most coaches do. It is a common practice, but it's hardly universal. Case in point: Georgia Tech's Brian Gregory. Gregory discussed his philosophy on transfers with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and lo and behold, Gregory's philosophy is an entirely reasonable one worth far wider acceptance in the profession. Atlantic Coast Conference rules require a player to sit out two years if he transfers to another ACC school, so that's usually not an issue. And with the possible exception of Georgia, Georgia Tech's natural rival, Gregory says he "wouldn't fight" a player's desire to transfer basically anywhere he wanted. To wit:
“Probably with UGA, it’s the in-state rivalry thing and so forth. But I will be honest with you, if it ever got to a situation where a kid really wanted to go to a specific school, I wouldn’t fight it … I wouldn’t fight it.” And if that specific school was UGA? “That’s a hypothetical situation that I would probably have to sit down and think more about. But … if that’s where a kid really wants to go, I wouldn’t fight it.”
And as for the outrage?
“I do think the ‘Why is a coach able to leave and players not’ discussion struck a pretty right-on nerve with the public. As negative as the coverage was regarding those restrictions on transfers, I think something good is going to come out of it because I think coaches are going to take a step back and re-evaluate how they handle the process.”
Currently, Gregory is working with two players -- Glen Rice Jr. and Nate Hicks -- on their transfers, and he even allowed another school to visit Hicks on campus to talk about the future of his career. And Gregory's rival, Georgia coach Mark Fox, goes even further: He has an "open release" policy, meaning his players can transfer anywhere, including fellow SEC members and rival schools. What a fabulous and foreign concept.
This, ladies and gentlemen, is how coaches should handle transfers. The rules should be rewritten to make such a process mandatory, but in the meantime, there's nothing stopping coaches from taking this initiative themselves. With the increased scrutiny, the upside to taking such a tact has never been greater. It's not only good press, it's good policy, too.