PITTSBURGH — No more appeals? No more sitting out a whole season? In the heart of basketball season, the most recent winningest conference in the sport is finally adapting to the new age of not only basketball but college athletics as a whole.
On Monday, the Atlantic Coast Conference moved along and said that they would support a rule that allows for student-athletes to be able to transfer one-time without having to sit out of their given sport.
Last month, the Big Ten was the first conference to be on board with this when they first announced their proposal for the rule change. With the ACC joining in, and if the 29 schools from their given conferences, they would only need ten more schools to go along with the change for it to be successful.
Programs from Power 5 conferences are going to benefit from this rule, which is why they are the ones pushing for it. But where does that leave the ‘little guys’?
“I won’t like it,” Duquesne men’s basketball coach Keith Dambrot said about the rule. “(But) I don’t have any choice.”
This topic carries even more weight for programs for local programs such as Duquesne (Atlantic-10 Conference) and Robert Morris (Northeast Conference).
If we’re just talking basketball, these programs rarely get the one-and-done talents, but they might get a few guys that develop into better players after their first season or two. And then what happens? They leave for a better program, while their coaches are stuck in a tough situation because they have a higher possibility of losing, with not being able to replace the given player(s) as quickly as they’d want. And with one or two bad seasons, next thing you know, a coach at the mid-major level will get fired.
You certainly can’t blame players at the mid-major level for wanting to play at the highest level possible, and for wanting them to receive the best experience possible, to become better players, and perhaps better prepare themselves for the next level.
This trend has been going on for years but has only gotten more and more prominent as of late. In the A-10 conference alone, you have had guys like Fresh Kimball (St. Joes/Louisville), Luwane Pipkins (UMass/Providence), Eric Williams (Duquesne/Oregon) and Jared Bynum (St. Joes/Providence) just in the past few seasons that have ‘moved up.’ Kimball was able to play immediately because he was a grad transfer, but a guy like Williams was forced to sit out a season.
“They all look now like if he can do it, I can do it,” Dambrot said. “With the easiness of transferring now, with the portal, and you not having to go to the coach, you’re automatically released. … If that becomes a rule, then hey man, (that’s not great for us).”
The direction of this rule has been pretty clear now for a few years. It hasn’t been nearly as hard to go somewhere new and be available right away.
“Most of (the players) that try for the waiver, get the waiver,” Dambrot said. “Because it’s a big legal issue. If a guy from soccer can be immediately eligible and a guy in basketball can’t be eligible, that sounds kind of weird, right? … What’s the difference?”
Another hurdle that mid-major coaches have dealt with is with the fact that they already have to be mindful of how they handle the current players on their roster, whether it’s with academic or discipline standings.
“Just think about the position we’re in right now. You have to have a certain APR (Academic Progress Rate) to play in the tournament,” Dambrot said. “So, if you want to discipline somebody, and your APR isn’t great, you can’t even discipline them, you can’t kick them off the team, you can barely suspend them because then they won’t even go to class, and now your APR is even worse.”
The APR is a calculation that has a few factors that better explain it.
Each student-athlete receiving athletically related financial aid earns one point for staying in school and one point for being academically eligible.
A team’s total points are divided by points possible and then multiplied by 1,000 to equal the team’s Academic Progress Rate.
In addition to a team’s current-year APR, its rolling four-year APR is also used to determine accountability.
Teams must earn a four-year average APR of 930 to compete in championships.
This rule was created so that coaches ‘didn’t run players out’ according to Dambrot. Now, the roles have switched, and ‘players are running coaches out.’
“Now these guys can go to the portal (and) transfer, right? Without anybody saying no,” Dambrot added. “And then pretty soon, if they can go to the portal and (become) immediately eligible, now I think the APR rule will change. There won’t be an APR rule anymore.”
Besides that factor, if you’re in Dambrot’s position, do you continue to recruit the same way? How do you try to compete for championships knowing that almost every time you recruit a player that has a chance to be really good, there’s a high chance that they will go elsewhere at some point. It’s always been known that to be really successful, as a mid-major program in the sport of basketball, you have to be playing with juniors and seniors. But now, how do you keep those players until they get to that point in their careers? Recruiting is on the back burner for a lot of these programs, especially with this new rule on the horizon.
“Recruiting is important, but retention is even more important,” Dambrot said.