NCAA must act on transfers
This is supposed to be a free country, even for college athletes.
After going through all the fanfare, handshakes and smiles that surrounded his hiring as the new men's basketball coach at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, the much-traveled Larry Brown started evaluating the talent of the players he inherited.
SMU announced this week that Brown has told four members of his new team that they were no longer part of the team, that he didn't want them around and that he plans to recruit better players to take their place.
The casualties included three bench players and one two-year starter, 5-foot-10-inch point guard Jeremiah Samarrippas. The upcoming junior told the SMU student newspaper that Brown said he "wasn't good enough to play for (Brown)."
The four players dismissed from the team were told they can continue in school on academic scholarships. If they wish to transfer, Brown told them, he would do what he can to help them do so.
Hey, it's a tough business, and coaches are hired to win. But if college coaches are allowed to jettison players at will, it's way past time to change the rules that bar players from transferring wherever they wish whenever they wish.
The power balance is egregiously out of whack when coaches can fire some players but hold others hostage.
It was just a couple of weeks ago when Wisconsin men's basketball coach Bo Ryan, angry because talented recruit Jarrod Uthoff wanted to leave, refused to give Uthoff a release and tried to restricted the player's choice of schools where he could transfer.
Once publicized, Ryan's bully-boy tactics became an embarrassment for the University of Wisconsin, prompting an intervention by Athletic Director Barry Alvarez and a subsequent reversal of position by Ryan.
But Ryan's conduct is not unusual. Saint Joseph's basketball coach Phil Martelli blocked the transfer of Todd O'Brien to the University of Alabama-Birmingham this past season. O'Brien had graduated from Saint Joseph's and planned to use his last year of eligibility to play basketball and attend graduate school at UAB. Martelli refused to grant O'Brien, a bench player at Saint Joseph's, his release, so O'Brien practiced at UAB last year but was barred from playing.
O'Brien was using the same transfer rule that allowed point guard Sam Maniscalco to move to Illinois from Bradley last season. Bradley released Maniscalco for his fifth year while Saint Joseph's and Martelli would not release O'Brien.
This kind of double standard is intolerable, and the NCAA needs to make a change.