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College Basketball

Saunders: NCAA Gets It Wrong — Again

Saunders: NCAA Gets It Wrong — Again

The NCAA’s transfer waiver process is again under scrutiny, and again it’s happening with a player that’s transferred from Pitt.

Last off-season, the national basketball media was abuzz when Pitt and then-head coach Kevin Stallings attempted to block the graduate transfer of Cameron Johnson to North Carolina.

Pitt was generally seen as the bad guy by members of the national media for not letting Johnson go, but Pitt’s persistence eventually led to the NCAA making a wide-based ruling that schools could not block the transfer of a student-athlete that had graduated.

This year, Pitt had no issue allowing point guard Marcus Carr to transfer to Minnesota for his sophomore season; it’s the NCAA that’s preventing him from being eligible to play this season with the Golden Gophers.

On the surface, it’s a cut-and-dried case. Carr played one season at Pitt before transferring. He’s not a graduate transfer. Thus, he should have to sit out a season at Minnesota.

But after several years of a black-and-white stance on this issue, the NCAA has been granting more eligibility waivers over the last few seasons.

Pitt football has been the beneficiary of one such waiver this season, as Indiana transfer Taysir Mack has been been able to play wide receiver for the Panthers this season.

The problem is that it’s never made clear how or why the players that qualify for a waiver end up qualifying. Sometimes, it’s to be closer to home, to be nearer to a sick relative or for an athlete’s own health reasons. Sometimes, it’s just a mystery, as in the case of Mack, where no reason was ever given for his waiver by the NCAA, Pitt or the player.

There are privacy concerns, of course, that probably make it impossible for the NCAA or the schools to release such details and there are plenty of incentive for players to not want to, either.

But that leaves other players, left on the outside looking in, like Carr is right now at Minnesota, not knowing or understanding why their application for a waiver has been denied while others’ have been accepted.

That lack of transparency also prevents any fair third-party evaluation of the process. Is there are good reason that someone like Mack was allowed to play this season while someone like Carr will not be? Maybe, but with the curtains drawn, there is no way to know.

Little by little, the NCAA is losing its battle over the amount of control it can place over the freedom of movement of a student athlete. This ought to be the next one to topple. Either players can be eligible immediately when they transfer or they can’t.

No subjective process without transparency can exist, because no one trusts the NCAA to do the right things behind closed doors.

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