Danny Sanchez had something to get off his chest. The Colorado soccer coach even warned his audience Wednesday at national signing day that “everyone could perk up now” when asked about the possible restructuring of NCAA transfer rules.
A proposal offered by the Big 12 Conference faculty representatives from Baylor and Iowa State would bring sweeping changes to transfer rules. Most impactful for programs like Sanchez’s soccer squad and the CU volleyball team is that transfers in those sports would most likely have to sit out a season, as their student-athlete counterparts in sports like basketball and football have for decades.
The exception across all sports would be if a coach leaves his or her institution, or if a program receives NCAA sanctions, athletes on those teams would be able to transfer with immediate eligibility. Immediate eligibility has been the longstanding norm in sports like soccer and volleyball, and while the idea of uniform rules across all athletic programs may seem like fair outcome, Sanchez argues the reality is that not all athletic programs are necessarily operating on the same playing field.
“I think how the NCAA is looking at it, not one shoe fits all,” Sanchez said. “I think by trying to establish transfer and contact rules for all the sports when they’re all different. And by different, everyone is going to a university to be a student and play a sport. In that sense it’s the same. But it’s not that simple.
“I think that if you really want to break it down and talk specifically about soccer, we all know (CU athletic director) Rick George is on that task force (the Transfer Working Group) so he’ll put the Pac-12 vote in. But we had our Pac-12 coaches meetings and I’ll speak for women’s soccer, everybody’s against it.”
Sanchez and his CU volleyball coaching counterpart, Jesse Mahoney, have reaped dividends from transfers who were able to contribute immediately — often in the form of Colorado natives who decided the grass wasn’t necessarily greener on the other side of the state borders. Current NWSL pro Danica Evans played a big part in CU soccer’s run to the 2016 NCAA Tournament, and last fall Becca Rasmussen and Tatum Barton (both Colorado natives, like Evans) made immediate contributions during a return trip to the tournament after playing elsewhere a year earlier.
In volleyball, standout outside hitter Alexa Smith (from Monument) has been a key part of the Buffs’ attack since transferring after one year at Purdue. Of course, those programs also lose players to the same rules, most notably in recent years with volleyball’s Gabby Simpson and soccer’s Brie Hooks, but an argument can be made that new transfer legislation will fix a system that, at least in those sports, isn’t broken.
“I think the big picture they talk about well if you sit a year, academically you’re more successful,” Sanchez said. “Well, all of our players graduate. So it doesn’t matter if you sit a year or not. Making a player sit a year when they’ve done the work to graduate in four years, I don’t think that’s fair to the player.
“I think the other thing is when you’re comparing these sports, when you talk about Olympic versus head count sports, if you’re a head count sport — and for the University of Colorado the sports you have to sit out (after transferring) are men’s and women’s basketball and football — well, all those sports have two to three, or in football’s case four times more scholarships than players that can actually play at a time. So they can bring a player in, put them on a full scholarship, have them sit the year, and then have them back. In a perfect world, that’s not a bad thing. In our sport, where it’s equivalency, there’s players that are getting nothing. Players aren’t getting big scholarships. When you look at a player that maybe is at another school that wants to transfer for whatever the reasons are…there’s not a lot of programs that can sit on big money when you only have 14 scholarships for 25 to 30 players.
“I would like to see the rule go the other way. If you want to transfer, just go. Coaches can go. Athletic directors can go. Media can go. There can be separate rules for different sports.”