Kolpack: If transfer rule is approved, inmates will be running the asylum
FARGO — The rule allowing a Division I college basketball player to transfer to another Division I school without having to sit out a year was first discussed last summer by the NCAA. It was one of those proposals you thought would just go away.
It hasn’t. And, in fact, it may very well be adopted by the NCAA Division I Council this June and if that’s the case, look out. It’s going to be all-out trench warfare out there.
Count North Dakota State University head men’s basketball coach Dave Richman as one who believes the change will be adopted, in some form or another.
“Basically, the big thing is why should an athlete be treated differently than a regular student?” Richman said. “If a business major or a band student can leave at mid-semester and transfer, why is it different for an athlete?”
Richman was making a generalization on the basic premise for the proposal, and he’s not necessarily in favor of it. I’ll give you my opinion: It’s going to make a college player even less like a band student and more like a minor-league free agent.
The last time basketball transactions reached a revolving-door pace around here was when the old Fargo-Moorhead Fever of the CBA were in town in the early 1990s. As the beat guy, I got a front row to all the player personnel decisions.
Some were made almost on the spot after games with head coach Steve Bontrager. In one instance, the post-game interview in the makeshift coaches office on the lower level of the Fargodome went something like this:
Me: Johnson didn’t have his best game. What happened?
Bontrager: I’m going to cut him.
Bontrager: Don’t print it yet, I haven’t told him.
That scenario, of course, would never happen at the NCAA level, but if the transfer rule is ditched, it would be the reverse anyway. Don’t think this following scenario couldn’t happen:
Me: Hey Johnson — 23 points, 15 rebounds, 9 assists — what was the vibe out there tonight?
Johnson: I felt great, got into the flow of the game early.
Me: What about …
Johnson: Excuse me, the Indiana assistant coach is texting me.
That reality, that coaches at high-major schools around the country are going after mid-major players, is happening already. They know who the good mid-major players are, and they are tracking their every move.
They all knew South Dakota’s Matt Mooney was a grad transfer, and after Mooney tweeted out his intention to leave the Coyotes, his phone was probably blowing up. The coaches all know standout guard John Konchar at Purdue-Fort Wayne is a grad transfer and is capable of getting poached at anytime.
Midco Sports Network, which has contracts to televise about half of the Summit League, on Monday reported at least 16 Summit men’s basketball players are transferring next season. There certainly could be more.
Richman said he would like to see the proposed rule be categorized, meaning tie some stipulations to it. For instance, if a coach is fired or leaves, you can transfer without penalty.
“To me, there is a happy medium between giving the kids freedom that everyone else has but also a loyalty commitment to finish something you started,” he said.
The Summit has already seen some pretty good movement in the last three seasons. Since the 2015-16 season, Oral Roberts has had eight players leave. NDSU, South Dakota State and Denver are next with six each. Fort Wayne had five, Nebraska-Omaha four, University of South Dakota three and Western Illinois two.
To be fair, most were probably walk-on or bench players. But some stars left, like NDSU guard Khy Khabellis and Omaha forward Tre’Shawn Thurman. Both had to sit out this season … Khabellis at Pacific and Thurman at Nevada. If the new rule passes, look out, it’s going to be the wild, wild West.
If a Big Ten Conference school like Nebraska has a glaring need at, say, power forward, head coach Tim Miles would have every right to find the best power forward in mid-major basketball. In essence, mid-major basketball could turn into a junior varsity league for the Power 5.
So, if the rule passes, and the Bison have a freshman who goes lights out on the Summit next season, the odds of him staying around Fargo will be considerably less. Also, consider this: schools and their coaching staffs will be spending the regular season keeping the good players happy.
In essence, the inmates will be running the asylum.
It will be the mid-major coaches who will be imprisoned by the new rule.