Under NCAA rules, a college athlete who receives his undergraduate degree but still has a year of eligibility remaining can transfer to another school and play right away rather than sit out a year which other transfers must do. This exception became a focal point in the national media when St. Joseph’s would not release center Todd O’Brien from his scholarship so that he could pursue his graduate degree and play out his final year of eligibility at UAB.
Big Ten teams Michigan State and Illinois have benefited from this rule this season. The Spartans starting shooting guard Brandon Wood transferred in from Valparaiso under these guidelines, so did Illini point guard Sam Maniscalco who left Bradley and provided Bruce Weber with a much needed, experienced floor leader.
Wisconsin Badgers head coach Bo Ryan is vehemently against this rule though. He had quite the rant on the topic when speaking to the media on Monday, describing it as “a terrible rule” and “one of the worst rules I’ve ever seen.”
“I don’t think it’s a good idea at all,” Ryan stated. “I’ve never liked the idea of people leaving a program after four years of development at that institution, with teammates, and with that school, and to all of a sudden change and be eligible to play right away. If you make a move you sit. That’s all about building a team, building trust, building what college athletics was meant to be; the experience.”
Ryan also brought up some of the possibly shady, behind-the-scenes antics that may conspire with this rule in place. “All of a sudden, there’s going to be more of this going on. There’s going to be guys through outside third parties trying to find out for example if a guy was playing on a team and a bunch of seniors graduated… I look at Jordan Taylor, he would have been a heck of a free agent pick-up for somebody if say Jordan already had his degree and we lost as many players as we did to guys exhausting their eligibility. And maybe there’s a team out there that needed a point guard. Next year, there might a team that needs a big man (likely referring to Badgers’ redshirt junior center Jared Berggren who would be able to take advantage of this rule if he completed his undergrad this year.)
“It’s creating free agency and conversations behind the backs of the institutions, his coaches, and his teammates… People can tell talk about the education thing and this school didn’t have the masters and this. There’s other ways of doing it than to leave your school.”
When Ryan was asked if he would ever consider welcoming a player at Wisconsin via this loophole, his answer was emphatic. “We’ve been contacted about players. I tell my assistants I’ve got absolutely no interest, but that’s just me. That’s not making a judgement on anybody else. In some cases, I’m sure it’s done for all the right reasons. I just think because it’s out there now that people are going to abuse in other ways.”
Coincidentally enough, the Wisconsin football team tremendously benefited from this rule this past season when N.C. State transfer Russell Wilson became immediately eligible and quarterbacked the Badgers to their second straight Rose Bowl. Wilson’s circumstances were a bit different though since he was released from his scholarship with the Wolfpack so that he could pursue a professional baseball career. It was after that move when Wilson decided he wanted to play one more year of college football and landed at Wisconsin.
David Kay is a senior feature NBA Draft, NBA, and college basketball writer for the Sports Bank. He also heads up the NBA and college basketball material at Walter Football.com and is a former contributor at The Washington Times Communities. David has appeared on numerous national radio programs spanning from Cleveland to New Orleans to Honolulu. He also had the most accurate 2011 NBA Mock Draft on the web.
You can follow him on Twitter at DavidKay_TSB.