Transfer Portal Chaos

The new NCAA transfer rules allow college basketball players to transfer schools and play immediately.

The NCAA has created a carousel for basketball athletes due to their new transfer rules.

Over 2,000 men’s basketball players have already entered the transfer portal in hopes to find a new home for the 2021-22 college basketball season. The new rule established in April allows players a one-time transfer to a new school without having to sit out a year. They are able to play instantly after choosing their new team. The rule is bound to change the landscape of college basketball.

The Marist men’s basketball program has three players in the portal looking to transfer to different schools: Michael Cubbage will be at St. Francis Brooklyn, Zion Tordoff is transferring to Houston Baptist University, and most recently Hakim Byrd to University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC). Byrd comes as a surprise after his standout freshman season, making the MAAC All-Freshman team.

The new rule makes it easy for players to pick up and go to another school if they aren’t pleased with their current program. The rule change can be viewed as positive and negative. On one side, players should have the option to leave and not have to sit out if they are unhappy. Their college careers are short and they do not want to miss out on the opportunity to play while they can. On the other hand, transferring can be looked at as the easy way out. Many believe that players are shying away from adversity and they should fight for playing time.

Marist head coach John Dunne understands why the rule was passed, ultimately giving student-athletes the right to change schools without being penalized. However, he doesn’t think that this is good for the game of college basketball going forward.

“It can’t be healthy when you have 2,000 student-athletes in a transfer portal,” said Dunne. “I think at times young men don’t learn how to fight through adversity because the easiest thing to do is leave.”

Dunne wants to see his players fight the obstacles because it will benefit them on and off the court. If they choose to go elsewhere because they aren’t pleased with his decisions, he feels that it is out of his hands at that point. He won’t change his style now that players have more freedom to leave if they’re unhappy.

“As a coach you can’t worry about that. You need to coach your team to the best of your ability for that particular season, particular group, and for each individual,” said Dunne.

Although Dunne feels that the rule change is unhealthy for the sport, he sees the other side and how it can benefit student-athletes who want to change where they are. He encourages athletes that if the fit is not right then they should look to move to a school where they will get playing time or where they are most comfortable. College is a short four years and they need to take advantage of the time while they have it.

Assistant coach Dalip Bhatia has similar feelings to coach Dunne regarding the rule. These are unprecedented times where the rule allows student-athletes to have the freedom to switch programs, but they don’t have the ability to have a true visit with coaches to learn about their potential new program. Bhatia believes that this can lead to problems for athletes.

“In my mind, I think it can bring upon other issues,” said Bhatia. “First and foremost, poor decision-making, especially during this pandemic where kids aren’t allowed to take visits to schools and have human interaction with coaches.”

Dunne and Bhatia are both on board with having the players sit out a year if they choose to transfer a second time. This will eliminate players having the ability to manipulate the rule.

Bhatia also wants to remind players that the main reason they are on campus is to obtain a degree. For him, athletics is secondary to the student-athletes receiving their education. Multiple transfers could affect credits rolling over from one institution to another.

“We should look at the macro perspective and understand if we allow kids to transfer, does it affect graduation capabilities within a four to five-year window,” said Bhatia.

With regards to the Marist program, Dunne believes that the transfer carousel can be beneficial. Adding a more mature player through the portal can provide more leadership and depth to the team. The player will already have college experience, serving as a “plug and play” player compared to a freshman who may not be ready. Players can be lost in the process, but that’s the name of the game now.

“It can work either way for you,” said Dunne.

In turn, high school athletes who are looking to play at the DI level are getting the short end of the stick with this change. Since there is a surplus of players in the transfer portal, many teams are more inclined to go after the players who have college experience and can help a program win immediately. Teams are filling their roster spots with the high level talent in the portal rather than offering scholarship spots to high school seniors. These high school seniors are now left without a home and may be forced to take a gap year at a prep school.

Dunne wants to find balance in bringing in transfers from the portal and freshmen to help continue to grow an up and coming program. When a team is too young it is difficult to win a championship, but those players are important in long-term success. Having players over a four-year period – freshman to senior – that come through the program is the key to success.

“It’s a bit of an easier evaluation with transfers because there’s more sample size, and obviously there’s sample size for the college level. In that sense it’s a little bit easier,” said Dunne.

Dunne knows that the MAAC conference is going to suffer from this rule change. He has seen it already in its short lifetime, but he can’t waver from his coaching methods. It’s one small obstacle that he and his staff will work through. For the upcoming season, Marist will lose three players to the portal; however, they are adding two freshmen and a transfer player to their roster. Dunne did not disclose the name of the transfer player.

The overall landscape of college basketball is going through a major change with this rule. The NCAA is looking out for their players, allowing them to have more freedom to shift gears and go to a different school without being penalized. Coach Dunne and his staff at Marist have already begun the transition phase into the new transfer and recruiting landscape.

Edited by Ricardo Martinez and Bridget Reilly

Photo Credit: Marist Athletics

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