Ole Miss football is facing sanctions for a variety of NCAA violations. The penalties were fairly severe, although not as severe as they could have been.
The penalties are the result of an extended investigation that involved boosters being accused of providing extra benefits to recruits, including Mississippi State linebacker Leo Lewis.
As outlined by Steven Godfrey of SB Nation, who has been on top of the Ole Miss news for years, the sanctions for the Rebels football program are as follows: (1) Bowl ban for 2018 season, (2) four-year probation and financial penalties (reportedly $179,000 according to a separate report, (3) loss of 13 scholarships for three years, (4) show-cause for every coach connected to Ole Miss investigation.
That’s a lot! It’s not the death penalty, and Hugh Freeze somehow avoided a show-cause penalty, but it was enough to trigger the NCAA rule that allows for rising seniors to transfer anywhere and play right away.
This is a rare good rule, and the NCAA has at times gone farther; in the aftermath of the Penn State horrors, the NCAA ruled the entire roster was eligible to transfer elsewhere and play right away. But it doesn’t do much to help players with more than one year of eligibility remaining; they’d still be required to sit out the usual year before being eligible to play. And in addition, those players were reportedly placed under further restrictions, including which schools they could even contact about potentially having them transfer.
After an outcry from the media and, especially, as noted by Pat Forde of Yahoo! SportsvHERE, parents of those players affected by the restrictions, the university has abruptly reversed course and will now allow any player unfettered access to speak to any other program they want in considering a transfer.
“None of the students objected directly to us about those restrictions and if there were objections and a legitimate reason, normally what we would do is work with the student-athlete and their family,” athletic director Ross Bjork said according to the Jackson Clarion-Ledger.
“Taking the student-athletes best interest into account, coach (Matt Luke) and I, we talked about it [Tuesday] morning and so to be consistent, we’re removing any restrictions on their permission to contact for those who have requested permission.”
That’s such a joke of a statement from Ross Bjork; even if we accept his “legitimate reason” standard as reasonable, all it should take is “the head coach was fired after presiding over a staff that committed multiple NCAA violations.” That’s a pretty legitimate reason!
Instead, Bjork and Luke were forced into allowing players who want to leave to leave as freely as possible, though some might not get to play right away. (There’s at least one potential legal case that could change that.)
Why is that a big deal? Well, because the school had initially attempted to restrict transfers like this:
Shea Patterson's release comes with stipulations: No SEC schools or teams on Ole Miss' schedule in next 2 years. #LSU is out
— Jimmy D Smith (@JimmyDetail) December 2, 2017
That’s quarterback Shea Patterson, a good enough player for Michigan to send a plane down to Oxford for a preemptive visit:
This should make the Internet fun for a minute pic.twitter.com/YmCdTMnQm5
— Chase Parham (@RivalsChase) December 5, 2017
Michigan doesn’t play Ole Miss anytime soon, so it’s possible Patterson would have had his first transfer choice available, but let’s focus on the hypocrisy, because when the NCAA is involved, it’s always eye-catching. College players aren’t paid because they’re supposedly amateurs, rewarded with an education that should be plenty. Except they’re not college students when it comes time to take advantage of the rare instances when it would be more beneficial to actually just be a regular student.
The best part? The rule only applies to certain sports. Baseball, football, men’s and women’s basketball, and ice hockey. That’s it.
When we get the annual series of complaints from certain groups about the so-called problem that is athletic transfers, this part tends to be ignored. Other sports seem to get along fine. The argument against college athletes being able to freely transfer, or at least transfer as freely as the regular college students they supposedly are, is that it would be disruptive to teams, and hurt smaller schools.
But players transfer all the time even with the threat of sitting out a year, and the rates for sports with the penalty are similar to sports without the penalty, according to the NCAA itself.
Within each sport, those rates are incredibly low relative to the general college student population; the sport with the highest percentage of transfers among four-year schools is women’s beach volleyball, at 14%, for men, it’s soccer and baseball at 13.7% and 13%, respectively.
And on the whole, the entire D-1 athlete population transfers at a relatively small rate, despite the majority of sports offering no real penalty for doing so:
That’s low! Even lower when you consider that about a third of undergrad students transfer at least once. On a percentage basis, athletes aren’t transferring at a high rate, penalty or no penalty. Even in aftermath of Jerry Sandusky, only fifteen players took advantage of the carte blanche transfer opportunity. What problem are we solving or preventing with the one-year penalty?
Restricting college athletes from transferring as a condition of their scholarship is just one of many instances in which the NCAA and all the schools, administrators, coaches, and media enablers involved with the charade of “amateurism” shout up from the ditch about how nice the view is from the high ground. Just let the kids transfer wherever they want, and let them play right away. If that makes it harder on one coach to win, or on an AD to sell tickets or keep the booster money flowing, well, that’s what they get paid to fix.
As the NCAA has made very clear time and again, that’s a very important distinction.