If there's ever an Olympics for control freaks, big-time college basketball athletic directors and coaches should be on the organizing committee. Few other groups show such a consistent need to have things entirely their way.
The latest windbag to prove this point is Kentucky athletic director C.M. Newton, who cried foul last week because two Wildcats basketball players, Michael Bradley and Ryan Hogan, decided to transfer. Said Newton, "It used to be when a young person transferred, it was generally because they were in over their head and chose to go to a program where they could play. Now we're seeing a form of free agency. Guys might be unhappy, so they say they'll try another program. Where is the sense of loyalty to the program?" Newton griped that Bradley's and Hogan's departures raised a "fairness issue," having come so late in the recruiting season.
Newton's outrage begs a few questions. Where was his concern over free agency when Heshimu Evans transferred from Manhattan to Kentucky, where he became the Wildcats' second-leading scorer last season? Where was fairness when Kentucky made it dear to Roderick Rhodes that there was no place for him on the team, forcing him to transfer to USC and sit out a year? As for loyalty, how many times has a coach promised a player the world while recruiting him, only to move on to another job that pays better before that player sees a minute of college action? Players have no such freedom of movement. If a kid wants to transfer, his coach can refuse to let him out of his letter of intent, forcing the player to sit out two years before he can play again. That's what that sweetheart Bob Knight did to Lawrence Funderburke nine years ago.
Coaches often commit more scholarships to recruits than they're allowed. When that happens, some scrub invariably decides to transfer out. Now that's loyalty to the program. West Virginia coach Gale Catlett has already committed 16 scholarships to players for next season, three over the NCAA limit. By the time school starts in August three of those guys will be out of luck, but that doesn't seem to bother Catlett. "If you ask me who my 13 players are going to be, I have no idea," he says. "I could probably name nine or 10 of them. [Beyond that] I don't know."
So C.M., spare us the wailing and gnashing of teeth. The system has been rigged against athletes for so long, it's a pleasure to see things go the other way once in a while.