Kevin Stallings on Cuonzo Martin at SEC Media Days
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.
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