Transfer trouble?

There's a new transfer rule in Division I-A college athletics and more than a few coaches and athletics directors are not happy about it.

"We don't love this rule." – Jeremy Foley, athletic director, Florida

"That would be a major disaster." – Rich Rodriguez, head coach, West Virginia

"This is legislation that is not a good fit." – Grant Teaff, executive director, American Football Coaches Association

"It's unbelievable. It's a loophole that needs to be closed." – Urban Meyer, head coach, Florida

"I am not for these transfers. There are a whole bunch of things students like to do. Just because a student wants something doesn't mean they should get it." – Dave Maggard, athletic director, Houston

Hey, guys …

Wait a minute.

Count to 100.

Write a nasty letter, then throw it in the trash.

Yes, there is a new NCAA transfer rule, but no, it's not all that bad. Big-time college football is not going to hell in a hand basket. The world is not going to come to an end. This is not, as one recent scribe opined, a bizarre new NCAA rule that will go down as one of the worst ideas in recent sports history.

The new rule (proposal 2005-54) states: A student-athlete who earns an undergraduate degree in four years but still has one year of eligibility remaining can transfer into another college's graduate school and finish his or her playing career there immediately without having to sit out a year.

The purpose of this rule is, according to the NCAA Legislative Review Committee, "A student-athlete who earned his or her undergraduate degree has achieved the primary goal of graduation and should be permitted to choose a graduate school that meets both his or her academic and athletic interests, regardless of his or her previous transfer history.

It seems like nobody had a clue this rule was coming. The fact is that it has been in the works for about a year. The NCAA Academics/Eligibility/Compliance Cabinet recommended approval June 3, 2005. The Management Council reviewed it in January and the NCAA board voted 13-4 to adopt it last month.

However, it seems to have caught all the coaches and ADs off guard, and their first reaction has been one of panic and amazement.

The big fear is that schools will abuse this rule and steal players from other schools. That is, a player who graduates from a lower-level Division I-A school and still has eligibility remaining will be coaxed into transferring to a bigger school where he might have a chance to go to a bowl or play for a championship. Or more likely, considering where the early complaints are coming from, a lower-level school will encourage an unhappy backup or depth player to transfer to somewhere he might be able to start. (How awful would that be?)

The fact is, every NCAA sport already allows students one free transfer without having to sit out a year except football, basketball and hockey. There don't seem to be any real problems in these other sports. And I don't see coaches worried too much about the consequences of leaving institutions when they can better themselves by a million dollars or so by taking other jobs. Maybe coaches should have to sit out a year, too.

As for the concerns that schools will encourage athletes to transfer, remember, it's against NCAA rules for a coach or school representative to make contact with and recruit a student-athlete that is enrolled at another institution. It's called cheating.

It's great to see that the SEC presidents recently voted to fall in line with the new rule. I expect most of the other presidents will follow suit.

Will a few mid-majors lose a player or two who decide to try their skills at a higher level? Likely. Will a few BCS contenders lose a backup quarterback who wants a chance to start before his playing days are over? Probably. Will that be such a bad thing? Absolutely not.

I believe this is one of the few times we've actually done something right for the good guys. I'm talking about the true student-athletes who come to college, graduate ahead of schedule and qualify to get into graduate school. These are the athletes we ought to be bending over backward to assist.