Here's a 'yes' vote for free agency in college athletics

Bo Ryan and the Wisconsin basketball team have been shamed into doing the right thing, and Jarrod Uthoff is free to transfer. But the issue behind the situation goes deeper than just where athletes can go.
by Berry Tramel Published: April 19, 2012

Bo Ryan and Wisconsin basketball have been sufficiently shamed into doing the right thing. Jarrod Uthoff, now the nation's most famous redshirt freshman, is free to transfer anywhere outside the Big Ten.

But the bedrock issue in the Badger badgering – and with University of Tulsa guard Jordan Clarkson, who was denied freedom to transfer to five of his eight requested schools – goes deeper than just where athletes can go.

It stems from coaches' desire to squash collegiate free agency. Their desire to retain as much control over their charges as possible, same as pro sports franchise owners from yesteryear.

That's why players, except in extreme circumstances, must sit out a season when transferring. Coaches and administrators believe free agency would bring chaos, from illicit recruiting to competitive balance upheaval to disruption of summer workouts, the untold scandal of collegiate athletics.

But the NCAA should not fear free agency. Player freedom would enhance college football and basketball.

We heard for decades that free agency would be the ruin of major league baseball. Of the NBA. Of the NFL. Instead, those leagues have prospered with free agency. Increased parity, at least with baseball and the NFL, and increased excitement among fan bases. No reason to believe it would impact the colleges any other way.

Let a point guard or quarterback switch schools without sitting a season, so long as he's in good academic standing. Such a policy would have the same effect as scholarship limitations – the wealth would be spread.

Sure, you'd open the door for Andrew Luck to transfer to Alabama, for Robert Griffin to transfer to LSU. Except we all know well the stories of Luck and Griffin. Icons at their schools. Solid citizens. University leaders.

Neither strikes me as being the least bit tempted to look elsewhere, if such freedom was available. Stanford and Baylor provided excellent environments for them to prosper.

Schools that recruit well, treat their players right and provide a solid climate would not be subject to mass player defections.

And in hoops, players of that stature are transferring, all right, straight to the NBA.


by Berry Tramel
Columnist
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The...
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