SEC coaches waver on graduate transfer eligibility rule

NCAA college basketball coach Cuonzo Martin of Tennessee talks with reporters during the 2012 Southeastern Conference Basketball Media day in Hoover, Ala., Thursday, Oct. 25, 2012. (AP Photo/Dave Martin)

Photo by Associated Press/Dave Martin

NCAA college basketball coach Cuonzo Martin of Tennessee talks with reporters during the 2012 Southeastern Conference Basketball Media day in Hoover, Ala., Thursday, Oct. 25, 2012. (AP Photo/Dave Martin)

Vanderbilt NCAA college basketball coach Kevin Stallings speaks to rporters during the SEC basketball media day on Thursday, Oct. 25, 2012, in Hoover, Ala. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)

Photo by AP Photo/Butch Dill

Vanderbilt NCAA college basketball coach Kevin Stallings speaks to rporters during the SEC basketball media day on Thursday, Oct. 25, 2012, in Hoover, Ala. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)

Kevin Stallings on Cuonzo Martin at SEC Media Days

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Tennessee basketball coach Cuonzo Martin says it's a "sad deal."

Vanderbilt coach Kevin Stallings says the system is being "manipulated."

South Carolina's Frank Martin says blame society.

Kentucky's John Calipari says it's the rules.

The fad started in 2007, when Tyler Smith transferred from Iowa to Tennessee to be with his seriously ill father.

In order to gain instant eligibility and not sit out two semesters, per NCAA rules, Smith and UT utilized a little-known rule known as a "hardship waiver.

Bingo. Eligible.

Just like that, the hardship waiver was no longer a caveat in the rulebook.

It's been commonplace ever since.

Now another caveat has everyone's attention. Graduate students with remaining eligibility are also permitted to transfer without being forced to sit out a season.

The result: hardship waivers and graduate transfers have the college basketball offseason feeling more like free agency.

Instant eligibility has gone from the white whale to the elephant in the room.

Every coach sees things through a lens distorted by his own experience.

Cuonzo Martin, having come to UT from mid-major Missouri State, takes exception with the graduate transfer rule. In his old world, if a player were good enough to lead his team, he was likely good enough to leave his team.

"It's not fair to the mid-majors," he said, explaining that those programs didn't see the fruits of player development.

Stallings, meanwhile, has helped former players do the exact opposite. He's guided two former graduates to mid-major homes where they could contribute, instead of residing in the nether regions of his bench.

"It helped them a lot," he said.

And if you were a mid-major coach waving good-bye to your best player?

"Well that's a little more bothersome to me," Stallings said.

Look at Julius Mays.

After being named Horizon League player of the year last season at mid-major Wright State, Mays celebrated his graduation.

Then as a graduate, i.e. a free agent, he decided he'd rather be the sixth man at Kentucky rather than the best player in an entire conference.

He was entirely within his right, but don't tell that to Wright State.

"It is a rule that kids can leave and go to other schools and if they choose to do that, it's within the rules," Calipari said.

As for the hardship waiver, Stallings seethed when he said, "Things are just being manipulated and taken advantage of and as soon as you allow that, Pandora's Box opens."

That package was unwrapped long ago.

Few want to voluntarily sit out, thus waivers are now the trend, not the exceptions.

Waivers are sought after for everything.

In the SEC, former Connecticut center Alex Oriakhi found himself in a unique situation. After the Huskies were deemed ineligible for postseason play due to NCAA transgressions, the senior was permitted to leave without penalty.

Oriakhi will start in Missouri's season opener.

His former teammate at UConn, Chattanooga native Michael Bradley, meanwhile, wasn't so lucky. He had enough eligibility remaining to play with the Huskies after their sanctions are lifted and fell into a loophole. He wasn't granted instant eligibility upon transferring to Western Kentucky.

Now Bradley is at Vincennes University, a junior college in Indiana.

Nothing is guaranteed.

At Arkansas, Houston transfer Alandise Harris hoped to be granted a hardship waiver for undisclosed family reason.

He was denied.

Whether it's Kentucky or Western Kentucky or Vanderbilt or Vincennes, everyone differs in opinions on instant eligibility.

The rules are vague enough to take advantage of and feed a broken system.

That system, Frank Martin says, is put in place well before any players slips on a Division I jersey.

"You can ask any coach in this room how many different transcripts each of their kids had during their high school career," he said at SEC Media Day. "If they have three different high school transcripts, what makes you think they're going to get to college and have an epiphany and stay. It's our society."

There's no easy answer.

Just look at Cuonzo Martin, Stallings, Calipari and Frank Martin. Four coaches, four entirely different sentiments on the rules. Now consider there are 341 additional Division I head coaches.

Brendan F. Quinn covers Tennessee men's basketball. Follow him at http://twitter.com/BFQuinn

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Comments » 11

CoverOrange writes:

Isn't the supposed point of going to college getting an education and graduating? Seems like hypocrisy. Another article made a big deal about graduation rates. Can't have it both ways.

And why bring Tyler Smith into this? Hardship waivers have been around for a long time.

BruisedOrange writes:

Or, is the point of going to college to get a good job and earn a living?

It's estimated that most college graduates (in a decent economy) will have 4 to 7 distinctly different "careers" over their employment lifetime. The days of working in one industry or for one corporation have been largely gone for three generations now.

You could make the case that playing basketball on a middle-tier European team is as legitimate as--and better paying than--being a barista at Starbucks or selling t-shirts at Old Navy like most of your fellow graduates.

How much better would it be to make "basketball" a degree program? Players would certainly learn the game (their craft, trade, vocation) much better. Such a degree would include classes on coaching, investing money, and require a foreign language. Answering a question like "Why is there such a heated rivalry between Croats and Bosnians?" would require several centuries of eastern European history. It would certainly make a more legitimate college degree than most of the race & gender specific social science degrees.

The point is, as time-limited as a non-NBA basketball career might be, it's still comparable to the initial careers of most other college grads. According to Bureau of Labor statistics, 95% of the college grad labor force is employed in a career different from their degree.

Now I thoroughly enjoyed my education, which included two post-graduate degrees. But 3 of the 4 part-time jobs I'm getting by on today don't even require a high school diploma. Fact is, if I had simply learned how to weld, I could go to North Dakota and earn 10 times as much as I ever have.

CoverOrange writes:

in response to SO_GLAD_THEY_LOST:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Those FRESHMAN are a NBA mid major team.

lafollette37766 writes:

in response to CoverOrange:

Isn't the supposed point of going to college getting an education and graduating? Seems like hypocrisy. Another article made a big deal about graduation rates. Can't have it both ways.

And why bring Tyler Smith into this? Hardship waivers have been around for a long time.

When those billion dollar plus tv contracts started showing up the getting an education and graduating thing went out the window.

CoverOrange writes:

I love how some posters decide, without any reservation, that coach "X" is bad and will never amount to anything but never offer any logical reasoning. Coach Martin has one season as a data point. Given that kind of requirement, Calipari should have been fired after one season at UMass, or 4 out of first 5 years at Memphis. Fulmer should have been fired in his second year.

On second thought, I don't love it.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to CoverOrange:

Isn't the supposed point of going to college getting an education and graduating? Seems like hypocrisy. Another article made a big deal about graduation rates. Can't have it both ways.

And why bring Tyler Smith into this? Hardship waivers have been around for a long time.

It seems to me that the real start of this was in the late 1960's when Spencer Haywood was allowed to go pro almost immediately after he signed to play at UT, because he needed to support his impoverished family. That was the start of the relatively brief period where guys were allowed to go directly into the NBA from HS. Then that thought process was adopted some time later by the colleges. Such transfer waivers did indeed gain tremendous momentum after Tyler came to UT. Throughout all of college basketball, there are scores, if not hundreds, of these situations every season.

Just like a lot of things that are wrong with college sports these days, no one foresaw the unintended consequences that have followed from uncertain situations where a "well, just this one time" exception might have made a certain amount of sense. Now it has become a "freedom" situation with lawyers and administrators involved that defies easy solutions, just as with many other aspects of modern society.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to BruisedOrange:

Or, is the point of going to college to get a good job and earn a living?

It's estimated that most college graduates (in a decent economy) will have 4 to 7 distinctly different "careers" over their employment lifetime. The days of working in one industry or for one corporation have been largely gone for three generations now.

You could make the case that playing basketball on a middle-tier European team is as legitimate as--and better paying than--being a barista at Starbucks or selling t-shirts at Old Navy like most of your fellow graduates.

How much better would it be to make "basketball" a degree program? Players would certainly learn the game (their craft, trade, vocation) much better. Such a degree would include classes on coaching, investing money, and require a foreign language. Answering a question like "Why is there such a heated rivalry between Croats and Bosnians?" would require several centuries of eastern European history. It would certainly make a more legitimate college degree than most of the race & gender specific social science degrees.

The point is, as time-limited as a non-NBA basketball career might be, it's still comparable to the initial careers of most other college grads. According to Bureau of Labor statistics, 95% of the college grad labor force is employed in a career different from their degree.

Now I thoroughly enjoyed my education, which included two post-graduate degrees. But 3 of the 4 part-time jobs I'm getting by on today don't even require a high school diploma. Fact is, if I had simply learned how to weld, I could go to North Dakota and earn 10 times as much as I ever have.

Excellent post! The main problem I see is that so many schools either make, or at least aspire to make, the gobs of money and tons of "prestige" they think go to the top-echelon prorams that they want to get in on the fun. So we have almost nobody who has a vested interest in changing the fundamental direction or momentum this whole patched-together enterprise we call "college sports" has generated, propelled of course by the tons of money the TV networks pour into it in the name of entertainment. The fact that these programs are however loosely attached to institutions of higher learning almost guarantees continuing conflicts of interest among all the contending parties, and the "student/athletes" are mere pawns in a game in which their proportion of the proceeds is all but invisible in the ocean of money they have to swim in--and even provide the entire justification FOR.

mocsandvolsfan writes:

in response to SO_GLAD_THEY_LOST:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

first of all I did not read Coach Martin saying that it was wrong for a kid to transfer. He said it was sad for the mid-major teams. Teams as in the kids left trying to figure it out when their contributors leave them high and dry. Sure it's fine for the kid leaving to find better opps. It's also fine for a coach who can do a better gig for his family to do so. New coaches are easier to find I'd say than 3-5* players that the TEAM is depending on. But I see no problem with a kid transferring anytime they can do better. It would be sad if some of our players left but why shouldn't they be able to. The reason they're not allowed to is $$$, NCdarnAA,
Coaches and maybe a few other reasons.
So basically I can agree with your first statement. Except the coach's saying they shouldn't be able to leave. He said it's sad.

NOW as for the ridiculous statement of his coaching ability?? ridiculous.

mocsandvolsfan writes:

in response to johnlg00:

Excellent post! The main problem I see is that so many schools either make, or at least aspire to make, the gobs of money and tons of "prestige" they think go to the top-echelon prorams that they want to get in on the fun. So we have almost nobody who has a vested interest in changing the fundamental direction or momentum this whole patched-together enterprise we call "college sports" has generated, propelled of course by the tons of money the TV networks pour into it in the name of entertainment. The fact that these programs are however loosely attached to institutions of higher learning almost guarantees continuing conflicts of interest among all the contending parties, and the "student/athletes" are mere pawns in a game in which their proportion of the proceeds is all but invisible in the ocean of money they have to swim in--and even provide the entire justification FOR.

Being a Music Education major I did not see the conflict so much. Sports is a huge draw for the music program. Many kids come to Knoxville wanting to be in the band or even choir because of halftime experiences. Personally after nine years of marching band I pretty much hate marching.lol
Sports is a draw to the colleges in many ways. I realize you both know this but am just reminding the readers.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to mocsandvolsfan:

Being a Music Education major I did not see the conflict so much. Sports is a huge draw for the music program. Many kids come to Knoxville wanting to be in the band or even choir because of halftime experiences. Personally after nine years of marching band I pretty much hate marching.lol
Sports is a draw to the colleges in many ways. I realize you both know this but am just reminding the readers.

Far be it from me to disparage music education or the big college marching bands, especially the Pride of the Southland Band. My sister was a majorette and my best friend was first trumpet. I was even a professional musician of sorts myself. My HS music program was second to none in its day, and I treasure every moment I sang in its selected choir. (Before anybody draws any unflattering conclusions, I was also a three-letter man in both basketball and track!) However, the big-band structure was also a largely-unforeseen addition to the college football edifice. Today's college bands would look and operate VERY differently if they were not so closely associated with college football. I'm not saying that is good or bad--probably the former, in view of all the scholarships and such--I'm just saying that MOST of what we now know as the whole college football spectacle "just grew" with very little planning or foresight, and the areas in which the different aspects come together are some of the very ones that are causing problems in keeping the whole thing rolling.

mocsandvolsfan writes:

in response to johnlg00:

Far be it from me to disparage music education or the big college marching bands, especially the Pride of the Southland Band. My sister was a majorette and my best friend was first trumpet. I was even a professional musician of sorts myself. My HS music program was second to none in its day, and I treasure every moment I sang in its selected choir. (Before anybody draws any unflattering conclusions, I was also a three-letter man in both basketball and track!) However, the big-band structure was also a largely-unforeseen addition to the college football edifice. Today's college bands would look and operate VERY differently if they were not so closely associated with college football. I'm not saying that is good or bad--probably the former, in view of all the scholarships and such--I'm just saying that MOST of what we now know as the whole college football spectacle "just grew" with very little planning or foresight, and the areas in which the different aspects come together are some of the very ones that are causing problems in keeping the whole thing rolling.

hehe You don't have to explain your straightness, at least to me. I've never entertained any alternate lifestyle and never lettered in college. I did letter in baseball in high school if it eases any minds. I seriously doubt many would care one way or the other.

But like I said I know you two are knowledgeable about athletics and shcollies and such but I just wanted to inform for the people the gratitude I have for college sports as it basically paid my way through school without the benefit of a sports scholarship.

That said there were many in the school of music who snubbed not only athletics but marching band as well. Also It'd be sorta cool to see a football degree or a basketball major/degree. I've heard of something kin to basketball degree i.e. "basket weaving".hehe

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