By LARRY VAUGHT
After the NCAA confirmed Tuesday it was considering changing rules so Division I athletes in all sports could transfer one time without having to sit out a year like volleyball and some other sports already can do, it seemed likely that Kentucky coach John Calipari would have some strong opinions about that during his weekly radio show Wednesday night — and the did.
Calipari said he would support the change as long as the NCAA had ways to make sure there was no tampering by schools to induce players to transfer.
“The thing the NCAA would have to be able to do is to make sure they have rules in place for tampering and that people get fired. Not a penalty. If your program is found to do this, you as a head coach will be fired. Don’t tamper,” Calipari said.
Sounds simple and realistic but of course the NCAA probably could never do that.
“If a kid picked the wrong school or the coach made a mistake in recruiting, why shouldn’t the kid leave? It’s not about you or the program or embarrassment; the kid should go one time,” the Kentucky coach said.
“What you don’t want is because of a kid the first time they’re coached aggressively or the first time they’re taken out of the game or the first time someone else plays more than them, that they’re looking to go from one school to the next school to the next school to the next school.
“We don’t want that; it’s not good for the kids, let alone good for college basketball. It wouldn’t be good for the kids.”
Remember Kahlil Whitney left UK when his playing time decreased and he didn’t live up to the preseason hype. Yet Calipari doesn’t worry about the transfer proposal hurting Kentucky. He can reload. Lower level programs could not if their best players just opted to move on to bigger programs, especially if someone connected with the school encouraged them to do so.
“From the standpoint of Kentucky, it’s a home run because you’re going to have kids from around the country say, ‘I had a good freshman year, I’m going to go there and they’re going to get me right and I can fit in.’ Okay, but what if you’re at a mid-major school and a kid has a heck of a year? And now it’s like a training ground for the Power Five. That’s what it becomes. That’s the unintended consequence,” Calipari said.
Basically that’s what the graduate transfer rule has become — and UK has benefitted the last two years with Reid Travis and Nate Sestina.
“I’m okay with it because it’s good for the kids, but I’m also telling you, how do we make sure the kids aren’t tampered with? If you tamper with them, my suggestion is to fire the head coach. Just fire him. You’re out,” the Kentucky coach said.
Calipari believes firing coaches who tamper would be the only way to somewhat protect mid-major programs from having their players “poached” by bigger schools.
“It’s not good for the game, it’s not good for our profession but I think kids should have the freedom to move. We’ve just got to know how we’re going to protect it,” Calipari said.