Double standard: Free agency OK for coaches, not players?

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — It’s like that old anti-drug commercial, the one where the indignant father storms into the room, confronts the scruffy kid with the plaid shirt and the headphones and starts waving the box of drugs in little Johnny’s face.
 
As of May 21, 24 Division I college basketball players had graduated from a particular institution with eligibility remaining, the wacky little NCAA loophole that brought Russell Wilson to Wisconsin and Dayne Crist to Kansas.
 
One of the aforementioned kids elected to play pro ball overseas. Of the remaining 23 who wish to finish their collegiate careers somewhere else, 15 of these so-called free agents — 65.2 percent, nearly two-thirds — were leaving a program that had undergone at least one coaching change over the previous four seasons.
 
You, all right?
 
They learned it by watching you.
 
“It just for a while was a mid-major type thing, where kids decided, ‘Well, I’m going to go and I’m going to get to a big-time program,'” Kansas State coach Bruce Weber said Tuesday during the league’s summer coaches’ conference call.
 
“And it really, really hurt mid-major programs, where they’ve worked with the kids, got them to graduate, and did everything (you’re) supposed to do with them, but then they don’t get the benefits. But this year, it was even top-program kids leaving (for a) fifth year, transferring, things like that. I don’t like it.”
 
Yeah? Well, tough petunias.
 
Basketball coaches are funny, sometimes. Not ha-ha funny, like, say, Dave Chappelle or Louis C.K. More of the sad kind of funny, like Carl Lewis singing in public.
 
It happens every spring: A boatload of kids switch schools and the coaching fraternity gets their wingtips in a wad, going all Colonel Klink at the rulebook, shaking their collective fists in the air.
 
“It’s just kind of a growing culture, in my mind, of just the (way) kids are now, just their mindset,” Weber continued. “Instant success, instant gratification. You know, they come, and if it’s not perfect, they transfer. That’s the growing number.”
 
More than 450 changed programs last summer, and the totals are expected to be roughly the same this year, once the dust finally settles. The National Association of Basketball Coaches is against this, because they’re against anything that remotely threatens the oligarchy. Even the teddy bears among the college coaching clique can’t suppress their inner control-freak.
 
At any rate, with transfers, it’s an outlet mall of grey area, open to all kinds of interpretation. Coaches hate grey area. The NABC is asking the NCAA to institute a uniform one-year, no-play standard for all transfers, regardless of age, academic standing or circumstance.
 
Meanwhile, institutions will still be able to offer scholarships on a one-year, renewable basis, subject to the whims of the man holding the whistle. And you wonder why college administrators are nervous over the Ed O’Bannon case.
 
Plus, those 450 players on the move represent roughly 11 percent of scholarship rosters across Division I. That’s well below the average rate of transfers for college students as a whole — 1 in 3 switch schools before completing their degree, according to a February 2012 report in The Chronicle Of High Education.
 
A pain in the tukkis, it may be. A crisis, it ain’t.
 
But let’s play along for a minute and say that today’s kids are spoiled brats who can’t take the heat, impatient whelps who can’t be bothered to wait their turn.
 
How does that explain the NABC’s opposition to the postgraduate eligibility loophole?
 
Michigan State’s Tom Izzo despises it, but that didn’t stop him from recruiting guard Brandon Wood, whose career began at Valparaiso. Kansas coach Bill Self says the rule is crummy, but that didn’t stop him from signing forward Tarik Black, a graduate of the University of Memphis who free-agented himself into a sweetheart of a roster situation in Lawrence.
 
“It’s not a good rule,” Self said. “The reason it’s not a good rule is what programs can do is – they do what’s in the best interest of kids. And Tarik was an exception, because he graduated in three years.”
 
And their graduation is still on your record — a positive on your record, it should be noted.
 
They’ve hit the books. They’ve hit the weight room. They’ve given you at least three years of eligibility, if not more.
 
If you can’t give them incentive to stay and finish the journey, isn’t that on you? Doesn’t the sword cut both ways?
 
“But let’s say if a young man were to redshirt and then really developed, and he’s at a mid-major,” Self continued. “All of a sudden now, after his four years of college, he still has one left, then he would be (on the) open market to go wherever he wanted to go. So that, to us, is not good, when you’re recruiting kids off other kids’ campuses.”
 
To them, it’s poaching. To you, it’s freedom of movement. Coaches hate freedom of movement. Unless, of course, it’s their freedom. And their movement.
 
You can follow Sean Keeler on Twitter @seankeeler or email him at seanmkeeler@gmail.com