Why new NCAA transfer rules could ruin college basketball 

| Contributing Writer

In recent weeks, over 1,200 college basketball players have entered the transfer portal, already doubling the amount that entered the portal last year. The cause? A new NCAA rule that allows players to transfer to another program without fear of losing eligibility for the next season. Without the typical one-year penalty associated with the transfer process, players from across the nation are entering the portal, leaving many mid-major schools with empty roster spots and lost talent. Including my hometown University of Tulsa Golden Hurricanes, who will be without half of the current roster for the next season, programs are already beginning to feel the serious consequences of the NCAA’s relaxed regulations. 

Many of these highly talented players are leaving in droves to join blue-chip programs in Power Five conferences. Evidence for this requires no deep digging, as transfer players from last year’s portal occupy eight of the 20 starting spots on this year’s Final Four teams. Although it might increase the competition between schools at the top of college basketball, this exodus of talent is detrimental to the whole of college basketball. Outside of the Power Five conferences lie high-level conferences like the Big East and the American Athletic Conference (AAC) who draw top talent to their programs. But besides these seven, there are still 25 other college basketball conferences in the country. Obviously, the Power Five conferences are better, and have been for a long time, but if the NCAA allows for unregulated transfers between schools to continue after this season, the disparity of talent between the top and bottom will become insurmountable. College sports do not need superteams; college sports, by definition, differ from their professional counterparts in that they require different methods for players to move between teams, creating a different dynamic to competition. Just as NBA executives do not have to scour through hours of tapes and scouting reports to find the players they want to recruit for their program, college coaches or athletic directors cannot trade players from one institution to the other.

College programs develop over time, with coaches recruiting certain players and building a culture so that they may one day thrive. By allowing athletes to transfer without penalty, the NCAA encourages top schools to poach these developed players from quality programs. When they leave, they waste a lot of the time and money of these already resource-strapped schools. These coaches must begin the whole development process all over again, this time with a fear that their star player might just leave once again.

I am not saying that transfers are always a bad thing. Sometimes players just do not mesh with the coach, other players, or the overall system of the program that they initially thought would be best for them, and that’s okay. But now that the barrier that once gave players a second thought about transferring is gone and the floodgates have opened—nothing prevents them anymore from moving on to the bigger and brighter lights of elite basketball programs. Even my own precious Golden Hurricanes were not immune to this epidemic, losing a player last year in the transfer portal to Colorado, where he helped lead them to a berth in March Madness as a fifth seed.

The blue-chip schools like North Carolina, Duke and UCLA will always have more money and nicer facilities than those of the mid-majors. And in a typical year, they will almost certainly have better, more talented teams. But upsets between these two tiers bring needed excitement to the sport, excitement that is exclusive to college sports. And frankly, who doesn’t like to cheer for an underdog every once in a while? Having a little competition between the Davids and Goliaths of college basketball provides the sport with a certain magic that is so important to its appeal. But if the NCAA allows these rule changes to stay in place after the COVID-19 pandemic, the divide between top and bottom teams will only continue to grow, even to the point that the magic of March Madness might not overcome it.

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