As coaching carousel spins, players left with few rights (cont.)
Not surprisingly, Calipari takes umbrage at the suggestion that he is running off players at Kentucky. "There are guys here who are just not going to be able to play the way we play, and they're better suited to go somewhere else," Calipari said. "I don't want a kid who thinks he can be a professional not playing in February and looking at me like I'm screwing him. If you know kids are not going to play, you tell them."
To be fair, sometimes players' scholarships are withdrawn because of academic reasons or failed drug tests, but because of federal privacy guidelines a school is not allowed to disclose that information. And let's face it, the reason Gillispie was fired in the first place was because his players weren't good enough. Calipari also points out that he has never refused to grant a release to a player who requested a transfer. "I would never hold a kid back who wanted to leave," he said. "If a kid doesn't choose to play for me, I'm fine with that."
Still, by bringing in more players than he had scholarships -- "oversigning," as the practice is often called -- Calipari is taking roster management to an extreme. The problem is certainly not limited to basketball. After Ole Miss football coach Houston Nutt signed 37 players to scholarships in February (the maximum allowed per year is 25), the SEC passed a rule limiting its schools to signing 28 players in any given year. The Big Ten recently passed a rule limiting its basketball coaches to having 14 players on scholarship at a time (leaving a little room for reasonable attrition).
The issue of oversigning is something the National Association of Basketball Coaches' recently announced ethics committee, which is being chaired by Beilein, will hopefully address in the coming months. "Awarding scholarships when you don't have them is not the direction I think most coaches go in," Beilein said. "I think we have to take a long look at that. It's one thing if a kid leaves and you sign somebody else. I think we have a whole different issue when you sign people and people haven't left yet. That sends a bad message."
Brand also expressed a willingness to reconsider the rule requiring schools to keep scholarship agreements to one year. Scholarship agreements used to be for four years, but that was changed in 1972. (When I asked a veteran basketball coach why that rule was changed, he said, "Because football coaches wanted to run more players off.") "There's something to be said for the argument that we should have longer scholarships," Brand said. "That issue keeps coming up and we keep putting it under review, but maybe it's time to look at it again."
It is also long past time to scrap the National Letter of Intent program that unfairly binds high school seniors to their schools but not vice versa. The NLI is not produced by the NCAA but rather the Conference Commissioners Association, and though there is no rule requiring players to sign it, thousands of student-athletes do so every year. They're getting a raw deal: The NLI explicitly states a coaching change is not a reason for a player to be released from his obligation. Yes, schools often release players anyway when those situations arise, but why should they even have that option in the first place?
As for Freddy Asprilla, if FIU athletic director Pete Garcia continues to refuse to grant Asprilla his release, then Asprilla will appeal his case to a university committee. Should he lose that appeal, Asprilla insists he won't return to FIU. "I'm definitely transferring," he said. "I came to FIU because of coach Ruoco. Now that he got fired, I don't see the point of staying there."
More College Basketball
College Basketball Truth & Rumors