Change is on the way in college basketball. And Tad Boyle isn’t happy about it.
While the 10th-year Colorado men’s basketball coach was getting his 18th-ranked Buffaloes focused on a pivotal Pac-12 Conference showdown at home Thursday night against USC, he also was asked to respond to reports this week the NCAA was prepared to eliminate the rule that forces undergraduate transfers to sit out a season, possibly as soon as the 2020-21 school year.
Boyle echoed many of the comments being made by his coaching colleagues across the country, fearful the new rule will result in open season for the power conferences to poach the best players annually from mid-majors. His boss, CU athletic director Rick George, has served on the NCAA transfer working group that has been examining and debating possible transfer rules reforms for years.
“I hate it. I do. And not for the reason that people would say I hate it,” said Boyle, speaking strictly on the potential impact on college basketball. “It has nothing to do with limiting players’ ability to transfer. It has to do with graduation rates I think will go down. And in some cases significantly.
“As the head coach of Colorado, it’s good for me personally. It’s terrible for our sport. Because I’ve coached at those schools.”
“Those schools” would be Jacksonville State, where Boyle spent two seasons as an assistant 20 years ago, and his pre-CU job as the head coach at Northern Colorado for four seasons. Countering Boyle’s fears of poaching from the top down would be the idea that it might only be a limited number of mid-major stars that could make an immediate, and meaningful, impact on a bigger stage. Or that the current pecking order would remain intact, with mid-majors in turn wooing stars from low majors. Or that some of this free roster movement already is in play via graduate transfers, in some cases to the benefit of CU’s Pac-12 rivals.
CU faced Anthony Mathis against New Mexico each of the past two seasons and has faced him twice this year against Oregon. Max Hazard was the leading scorer for a UC Irvine team that won a game in the NCAA Tournament last year. This year he enjoyed a few big games early for Arizona, though his production has dipped significantly in recent weeks.
In a news release this past week the NCAA conceded there is a backlog in the transfer waiver appeal process, which has been widely criticized as being inconsistent. The Division I Council must still approve of the changes at its meeting in April. It remains unclear if certain restrictions will be applied within the free transfer rule, such as a potential transfer window for retaining immediate eligibility so as to avoid late summer roster movement, or if intra-conference transferring might still require a year of ineligibility.
Currently, transfers do not require a one year on the sideline in most sports, with the notable exceptions of men’s and women’s basketball, men’s ice hockey, baseball, and football.
“If I’m in the Big Sky, I’m like, ‘Are you kidding me?’ And there’s 31 leagues in college basketball,” Boyle said. “One of the things I don’t like about college football is you know before the season starts what eight to 12 teams are going to be in the Final Four every year. The beauty of college basketball is you have no idea. But you let this transfer thing happen and we’ll become more like college football and less like college basketball. I think in the long run it’s bad for our sport. It has nothing to do with not giving kids freedom.”