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The transfer epidemic: Why is this a bad thing?

Jamie Squire

I just cannot get worked up about the supposed "transfer epidemic." Apparently I should, but I can't. If Missouri were to do it above-board and win a lot of games, I'd be okay with the Tigers somehow crafting a roster of only transfers. It's legal. It helps to move student-athletes from a situation they don't want to be in, to one in which they might thrive. There are obvious drawbacks -- potential chemistry issues, to name one -- but if you can win with it, then do it. And if Mizzou wins a national title with transfers playing an enormous role, then go ahead and slap the dreaded "Transfer U" label on this team. I don't mind. We can complain that it's hard to keep rosters straight, but that's our problem. It is legal, and it should be. If you don't want to play the transfer market, then don't. I won't hold that against you.

We can't complain about student-athletes being victimized and then turn around and dump on their ability to leave one school for another. A lot of the people who complain about the transfer epidemic, and call it an "epidemic" in the first place, will also turn around and go on and on about how athletes are victims, that they should be paid, that they don't have enough rights, etc. It's difficult to make that assertion, then state that one of their biggest rights, the ability to transfer to another school (out of your conference) without losing your eligibility, should be further hindered by the already egregious exceptions. I don't enjoy the annual wave of transfers, but in the absence of cost-of-attendance grants or punishments for coaches who are free to jump from one job to another unhindered (and while making millions of dollars), you have to give the students something.

I hate, hate, HATE transfer exceptions. We're all railing on Oklahoma State head football coach Mike Gundy for prohibiting quarterback Wes Lunt from transferring (without punishment) to any SEC school or future OSU opponent (even Central Michigan), and justifiably so. But he's just exercising his rights. That he's a jackass isn't the problem; it's that he has the rights in the first place. I understand you don't necessarily want someone on the opposing team knowing your playbook, your signals, et cetera, but doesn't that happen all the time in the NFL? That's a pretty stupid excuse. Players with one-year scholarships can see their spot on the team cut in a given year for no good reason other than "He stinks." If that's the case, then the school should have no control over the player if he decides, at the end of one of these one-year agreements, to leave for some other program. I like the one-year waiting period because it does limit this from turning into full-fledged free agency, and I also like the "you don't have to sit out if you've graduated and can find the right master's program" and the "Your team is under sanctions, and you had no part in that, so feel free to find another school without sitting out" amendments. And while I don't really hate the "can't transfer within your conference without losing a year of eligibility" rule, but honestly, that's not a necessity either.

Last year was the exception for Missouri, not the rule. Mizzou will be introducing one new transfer to the rotation, and another one the year after that. If they pick up another transfer this year, then I will have to change my tune, but the 2012-13 roster was not the norm for Frank Haith -- it was an attempt to lose 85 percent of your rotation and still field a competitive team. That Earnest Ross, Keion Bell, and Alex Oriakhi all debuted in the same year was probably not something we can expect to happen again. Moving forward, it appears that Haith is content with using about one scholarship per year on a transfer, and why not? You're never going to use a 13-man rotation. If injuries or departures force you to use your 12th or 13th man regularly, you probably have bigger problems than whether you actually have 12 or 13 scholarship players in uniform.

Yes, this rant was spurred, in part, by a piece today by the Post-Dispatch's Jeff Gordon, but not really. It was bubbling up within me already. Gordon's piece is fine, other than the fact that I object to him lumping Keanau Post in with the other transfers. JUCOs are an entirely different (and more common) story. And I still say that this Missouri team had only Top 25 talent, not Top 10 talent, not even necessarily the talent of a "D-League team of fringe pros." But that's really not an argument I can win or lose. Regardless, Gordo's piece is fine. This rant was going to happen at some point regardless.