Athlete at bottom of NCAA priorities

NBA deadline, transfer tiffs latest examples

Herald-Leader Sports ColumnistMay 9, 2010 

College athletics claims to be about the best interests of the student-athlete, yet so often it cares little about the best interests of the student-athlete.

Cases in point, two current issues both involving college basketball. One is the NCAA's new deadline for undergraduates removing their names from the NBA Draft. The other is the continuing hypocrisy concerning transfer policies for athletes.

In past years, undergrads declaring for the draft had until June 15 to make an informed decision about their futures, whether to remain in the draft or return to school. Coaches were more concerned with their own futures, however, and the NCAA moved the deadline up to May 8 (Saturday). That way they could make adjustments during the spring signing period.

The theory was that shorter evaluation time would cause fewer players to place their names in the draft, but it didn't work that way. Eighty underclassmen declared for this year's draft, up from 74 in 2009 and 70 in 2008.

Plus, less evaluation time has meant more uncertainty, i.e. the potential for more bad decisions.

"The whole process hasn't been as educational as we hoped," Mississippi Coach Andy Kennedy told CBS Sports.

Kennedy's concern appears selective considering Ole Miss is in the middle of another issue in which coaches have stacked the deck against the individual player.

Murphy Holloway, a 6-foot-7 sophomore at Ole Miss, has asked for a release from his scholarship. A native of Irmo, S.C., Holloway wants to transfer to either South Carolina or Clemson.

Not so fast. Ole Miss denied Holloway a chance at a scholarship at either school. Instead, Ole Miss said he was free to play for Coastal Carolina, Winthrop, College of Charleston or Charleston Southern. How generous.

Meanwhile, Kennedy had no problem playing David Huertas, who transferred to Oxford from fellow SEC member Florida. Plus, Ole Miss allowed basketball player Malcolm White to transfer to LSU, a team in its own division. Figure that one out.

Worse is the Alabama soap opera in which Coach Anthony Grant is refusing to allow junior forward Justin Knox to transfer up the road to UAB.

Knox averaged all of 20 minutes last year, is graduating in three years and wants to play as a graduate student at his next university. Plus, he's from Tuscaloosa.

Yet not only did Alabama boot Knox from the athletics dorm, it inferred there was a rule prohibiting players from transferring within the University of Alabama system. The next day, however, Alabama allowed women's basketball player Jocelyn Shaw to transfer to — you got it — UAB.

"It's a case-by-case basis," explained Mal Moore, the Alabama athletics director.

The situation is reminiscent of 2001-02 when UK tried to block Marvin Stone from transferring to Louisville to play for Rick Pitino. Athletics Director Larry Ivy's clumsy denial backfired publicly to the point Stone was allowed to become a Card.

Turned out, UK's fears were ill-conceived. Stone, who tragically passed away in 2008 from a heart attack, played no better under Pitino than he did for Tubby Smith.

Long story short, the system is the same as it ever was. Coaches still break contracts for new jobs of their choosing — a reason a John Calipari contract extension will have no impact — while players are subjected to a one-year renewable scholarship, but a four-year hold.

To be fair, there has been one change. This time last year, Memphis signees Xavier Henry and Nolan Dennis benefited from a letter-of-intent clause stipulating that if Calipari departed for another job (which he did), they would be released from their obligations.

The NCAA has now banned those clauses.

Remember, it's all about what's best for the student-athlete.

Reach John Clay at (859) 231-3226 or 1-800-950-6397, Ext. 3226, or jclay@herald-leader.com. Read his blog at Kentucky.com.

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