Jon Rothstein’s Transfer Epidemic That Isn’t

via Gibbs' instagram

Some college basketball players are graduating. This is a problem, according to CBS Sports’ Jon Rothstein, who took to Twitter on Friday morning to deride the national crisis that has arisen due to players who hold bachelor’s degrees deciding to pursue their master’s at a university of their choosing.

These players, generally fifth-year seniors who previously missed a season of eligibility due to injury or a prior transfer, are granted the privilege of going to a new school without sitting out again. At UConn, this has included players such as Sterling Gibbs, Lasan Kromah, Shonn Miller and RJ Evans.

They are ruining basketball, according to Rothstein. Here’s a sampling of his thoughts:

They should all have to sit a year. Period. End of discussion.”

Ut oh. End of discussion. Guess this post is over.

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Or it would be if Rothstein didn’t then immediately start comparing the conditions of graduate transfers to job-hopping coaches. The crux of his argument is that coaches (highly paid by any standard) are sometimes penalized by having to pay (modest) buyouts (typically funded by their new school) before leaving to take a different (higher-paying) job (without being forced to take a year off from the sport).

“Would solve a lot of problems if all transfers had to sit a year.”

First of all, what problems?

Of all the legitimate issues facing college sports, which ones are caused by Lasan Kromah? Typically when Rothstein-types seek out cause for moral outrage, they settle on the lack of commitment to academics, be it a player like Ben Simmons skipping out on his final exams in favor of the NBA Draft or when a school like North Carolina gives Sean May a bachelor’s degree in gummy bears. Given that, shouldn’t players who have earned their degree and are pursuing an even higher education be praised as incredible role models and examples as the best-case scenario for college sports?

The answer seems obvious unless you can concoct some insane reasoning to fit your desired narrative. Like that sitting out an additional year: “Teaches kids how to handle adversity and work through it, minimizes potential tampeing [sic], eliminates an epidemic.”

Ah, yes. I’m glad Jon Rothstein… is here to teach young, predominantly black men about adversity. As he says “…it is the culture they are raised in.”

“I wanted to come here to go far in the NCAA Tournament and to say I got a master’s degree from a distinguished school like UConn. This beats anything I accomplished on the basketball court.” – Sterling Gibbs (Hartford Courant)

Now, it is true that the number of transfers in general has increased dramatically in recent years. According to the invaluable list maintained by ESPN’s Jeff Goodman and Jeff Borzello, last year over 700 players throughout Division I basketball left one school for another. Whether you see this as a problem or a benefit depends on your perspective.

In a non-athletic setting, we place no barriers of transfer on college students. If you are accepted into a new university, and you feel that a change will benefit you personally or academically, good luck to you. Should that equation change if you have a nasty crossover or a sweet jump shot?

Non-graduate transfers (think Rodney Purvis or Terry Larrier) are already forced to sit out a year during the transition from one school to the next. For many high-caliber players, that barrier persuades them to stay in a bad situation at their current school, or pushes them away from college altogether and into the NBA Draft pool or overseas to prematurely begin a professional career. Limiting the academic opportunities of college students is not a recipe to improve academics. Imposing new penalties on the highest-achieving student-athletes who have already completed their bachelor’s degree is offensive.

Unless, of course, you make your living by reporting benign college basketball news that is hand-fed to you by well-paid coaches and university staff to ensure their positions are sold to the general public.