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College stars deserve the right to be free agents

by Berry Tramel Published: June 9, 2006
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supports the one-year sitout rule for all sports. Holder said baseball voted on a proposal last year to make its players sit out, though the measure failed.

"I think it's a mutual agreement, a contract between two parties," Holder said of a scholarship. "If either decides to break it, there should be some consequences."

But agreement is weighted in the schools' favor. Players face a penalty for leaving. Schools do not face a penalty for revoking the scholarship, which are granted only on an annual basis.

Pulled scholarships are rare. "You have to have a good reason not to do that," Holder said. "If you indiscriminately do that, word travels fast. You're not going to be very successful."

Maybe. But it's still not equitable.

Would mass free agency lead to problems? Yes. But they could be dealt with. In fact, the solutions could be quite charming.

For instance, coaches leaving and taking players with them would be a concern. Schools could counter by enforcing contracts.

The one-way nature of college coaching contracts is ridiculous. A coach's commitment means absolutely nothing. That needs to change.

Pro coaches are held to their contracts. Do the same in college. Police the breaking of contracts. Indiana can't permissibly tamper with Oklahoma players; why can it tamper with the Oklahoma coach?

Coaching contracts might shorten. The cult of the coach could lessen. Can anyone else sing hallelujah?

Another possible fix: graduation rates. The current best defense against schools pulling scholarships is the new Academic Progress Rating, which penalizes schools that have poor athletic graduating rates.

OU athletic director Joe Castiglione is willing to negotiate. Relax the graduation requirements, and he'll vote to relax the transfer rule.

I'll buy it. The graduation frenzy is misguided. Athletic departments suddenly are in the diploma business; that's dangerous territory. Let academic deans, not athletic directors, stand sentry over graduation.

"Most problems with graduation rates relate to students leaving school before they complete their eligibility," Castiglione said. "If you wouldn't hold schools accountable, I wouldn't be as strongly opposed to it as I am."

So there. Players are treated fairly and potholes are patched. Full steam ahead.

Berry Tramel: 475-3314, btramel@oklahoman.com. His radio show, The Writers Block, can be heard Monday through Friday from 4-7 p.m. on KREF-AM 1400, KADA-AM 1230 and KSEO-AM 750.

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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 Oklahoman,...
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