We are over two months removed from the conclusion of March Madness and still nearly five months away from the start of the college basketball season. However, everyone needs a January-like mid-season breather.
While we are winding down on college hoops’ unofficial transfer season, a moment to reflect on the chaos, disorder, and mockery the NCAA has made of itself, is needed in order to regroup. Because more players than ever are exercising their right to submit waivers, appeals, and anything else that has a slightly remote chance of being accepted, we are seeing the landscape of college basketball being severely altered due to inconsistencies and atrocities by the NCAA. Due to the extraordinary flexibility the NCAA has given transferring student-athletes, it must be asked: Where does this stop?
Trey Zeigler, a four-star recruit according to Rivals.com, committed to stay home in 2010 and play his college basketball at Central Michigan, where his father, Ernie Zeigler was the head coach. The mighty Chippewas are by no means a college basketball juggernaut with four total NCAA appearances in school history but Trey joined fellow Michigan native Ray McCallum (University of Detroit Mercy) in passing on elite programs in favor of staying home to play for their respective fathers. Prep players reserve the right to play for any school they deem appropriate and a father/son success story at a mid-major would make enormous waves across the country. However, Ernie Zeigler was fired after back-to-back 20-loss seasons in Mount Pleasant and Trey decided he no longer wished to play basketball at Central Michigan following his father’s dismissal, and understandably so.
Trey then explored other options in the following weeks and settled on Jamie Dixon and the Pittsburgh Panthers. He proceeded to apply for a hardship waiver, requesting the ability to play immediately in 2012-13 instead of sitting out the mandatory one-year under transfer rules, citing his father’s firing as grounds for his immediate eligibility. Now, how could the NCAA possibility feel compassion for Trey? After all, wasn’t it Trey that decided to attend Central Michigan? Was there a possibility his father could be fired? Trey was not seeking to play closer to home. He had not already graduated from CMU. There were no ailing family members in Pittsburgh, therefore there is no shot the NCAA will exempt him from the transfer rule, right? Wrong.
This is not the only example of student-athletes looking to take advantage of inconsistent NCAA rulings. Former Florida Gators basketball player Water Pitchford V was seeking to transfer closer to his Grand Rapids, Michigan home to be closer to his ailing grandfather therefore settled on…Nebraska. For those keeping score at home, Lincoln is approximately 684 miles from Grand Rapids. To Pitchford’s credit, he did knock off nearly 500 miles from the Gainesville-Grand Rapids commute. Pitchford initially decided to file a similar waiver to that of Trey Zeigler’s, requesting to play immediately, but later retracted his decision to file. Potentially due to media backlash?
Bruce Weber was fired at Illinois, but none of his former players will be granted hardship waivers at other insitutions. This is the same case with dozens of dismissed coaches across the country but evidently it is special circumstances if your father is the head coach. Imagine if Ray McCallum Sr. was hired at an elite program such as Syracuse or Ohio State following a coaching change and his son, Ray Jr. also tagged along from Detroit Mercy. Given the precedence set forth by the NCAA, that Final Four contending school would suddenly have one of the nation’s best point guards at their disposal immediately.
Talk all you want about unfair conditions for student-athletes, restrictions placed upon them as opposed to coaches, and lack of pay, but the NCAA is more than making up for it by allowing blue chip prospects to play immediately and immensely impact that team’s respective performance. By committing to a school, that student-athlete is agreeing to four years of eligibility and if they elect to transfer, there is no reason they should not abide by rules set forth by the NCAA. That being said, the NCAA needs to become more consistent with their waivers and not allow players to jump from school to school because their father was fired or because they’re home sick.
By Andrew Doughty
Image: Justin Young/Getty Images