The final numbers aren’t in yet, but it has been another very busy year on the transfer market in college basketball.
This has become a growing trend in the college game. Athletes who are the least bit dissatisfied with their situation in one program routinely jump ship and transfer to another school. Many do it more than once in their college career.
It really has grown since 2011 when the NCAA instituted a rule allowing players who have earned a degree at one university but have not exhausted their eligibility to leap to another school without having to sit out a season.
According to a website called verbalcommits.com, there were 572 men’s basketball transfers in NCAA Division I in 2012. That grew to 672 in 2013, 753 in 2014 and a high of 835 in 2015. The trend leveled off somewhat to 811 last year and it appears this year’s number will be comparable.
When you consider that there are only 347 Division I programs, that’s an immense amount of players moving around.
It’s worrisome to some of those involved in the sport.
“It’s unfortunate, I think, the trend that we’re seeing with transfers,’’ Iowa coach Fran McCaffery said. “You always have junior college transfers, you have guys transfer who aren’t playing. But now you have starters transferring and you have the graduate transfers, which is the worst rule in the history of college basketball.’’
Iowa State coach Steve Prohm, who was in the Quad-Cities recently for the Cyclone Caravan event in Bettendorf, doesn’t necessarily like the trend either but he is more inclined to accept it for what it is.
“It’s part of the era that we’re in right now,’’ he said. “You can’t please everybody. It’s hard to. You try your best but it’s just tough and sometimes when kids transfer, it ends up good on the other end on both sides. But I don’t see it getting better.’’
The two coaches’ slightly different views of the transfer market are reflected in how much they have chosen to become involved in it.
McCaffery has taken only one Division I transfer in his seven years as the Iowa head coach: Jarrod Uthoff, who arrived from Wisconsin and ended up becoming an All-American in 2015-16. McCaffery did have another transfer, Bryce Cartwright, on his first two Iowa teams but Cartwright arrived from Fresno State nearly a year before McCaffery got to Iowa.
Iowa State over the same time period has brought in 19 transfers. Prohm has collected four — Nebraska’s Michael Jacobson, Virginia’s Marial Shayok, Princeton’s Hans Brase and Texas-San Antonio’s Jeff Beverly — just within the past few months.
It’s not that McCaffery is completely averse to embracing a player who began his college career elsewhere and he hasn’t discouraged players who chose to transfer out of Iowa’s program. But he definitely likes the cohesion that comes from having players who have been in his program from Day 1.
“It helps your chemistry and your continuity, no question, but I think what it says is that people enjoy going to school at the University of Iowa, they enjoy playing our style, they enjoy the competition in the Big Ten,’’ he said. “There’s a lot of things that I think they appreciate about it.’’
Iowa State’s penchant for attracting transfers didn’t begin with Prohm. Fred Hoiberg established the Cyclones as a magnet for disgruntled players from other programs when he was the head coach. Prohm has simply perpetuated that.
He especially has taken advantage of the graduate transfer rule to patch potential holes on his roster. The Cyclones had two grad transfers on their roster last season (Darrell Bowie and Merrill Holden) and will have two more next season. The 6-foot-9 Brase and the 6-7 Beverly help fill a glaring need for frontcourt help.
“It gives those guys … they have an opportunity to make decisions on what’s best for them,’’ Prohm said. “We’re obviously a program that’s been very active in that market and it’s been good for us.’’
There are many who feel that the graduate transfer rule is harming programs at the mid-major level, stripping away quality players just when they are ready to make their greatest contributions. All four of the grad transfers who have come to Iowa State under Prohm have come from mid-majors.
The 2011 rule, according to the NCAA, “was intended to assist academically high-achieving students in pursuing a degree of interest that may not be offered at their undergraduate college.’’
But it has gone far beyond its original intent with the number of athletes taking advantage of the rule nearly tripling in men’s sports between 2011 and 2015.
McCaffery would love to see the rule disappear.
“It should,’’ he said. “Whether it will or not … it’s a matter of perspective. On the one hand, you say ‘You’ve done everything we’ve asked you to do and you graduate, who are we or anybody else to say what you can do next?’ That’s the purpose of the rule, but what we’re underestimating is the collateral damage.
“Thousands of student-athletes are getting their academic progress deliberately retarded so they’re not raided. There are multiple schools at all different levels tampering with players who are on other teams. There are middle men looking for money as they shop prospective graduate transfers. So I think if you weigh the effectiveness of what is a rule with great intent vs. the reality of what’s happening, it’s a no-brainer. The rule has to go away.’’