Admit it, you kind of saw this one coming. You didn’t realize it was even possible to restrict a graduate transfer – because the concept of trying to enforce your will over a kid who has already graduated from your university is absurd – but you were nervous. And now, as Mike McAllister is reporting over at CuseNation.com, what we feared is happening. Miami is attempting to block Gus Edwards from transferring – almost certainly to Syracuse.
Let’s be perfectly clear, right up front: if there were no restrictions for Gus Edwards, it’s highly likely he’d wind up playing for the Orange next year. Last week, right when I was writing about Gus, a friend with some insight into the situation told me that Edwards wanted to play his final year at Syracuse, and the original plan was to lay low until he graduates this spring, in hopes that there’d be nothing Miami could do to stop him from going wherever he pleased.
Well, obviously Miami and Mark Richt had other ideas. And what’s most ridiculous about this situation is that Gus – or any other transfer, for that matter – shouldn’t have to get permission on where he can continue his education and, in this instance, his playing career.
And of course, it all comes down to one thing: Syracuse is on Miami’s schedule next year. Never mind the fact that Edwards is the backup tailback for the Hurricanes, and has rushed for 977 yards in a three year career that’s been plagued by some injuries. Apparently, Gus suddenly showing up on Syracuse’s roster is the difference between a win and a loss for Richt and the Canes, despite the fact that the Orange finished last year 4-8 and Miami is among the favorites to win its division in the ACC. Oh, and the game is in Miami.
So why does Gus want to leave Miami, anyway? It’s simple, really: he has a new son, and wants to raise him closer to his family in New York City. It’s a very reasonable desire, and at a driving distance of about four hours, Syracuse is among the closest Power 5 schools to his home on Staten Island.
Not to mention the fact that Edwards was originally committed to Syracuse coming out of high school, only flipping to Miami when Doug Marrone bolted for the NFL.
Which leads me to the next point: doesn’t it seem absurdly hypocritical that there are zero restrictions on coaches – as in, the guys who are actually making the money off of these games – when they want to change jobs? If Syracuse’s head coaching job somehow came open right now and Mark Richt wanted to jump ship from The U to head up to Central New York, there’d be nothing stopping him.
But Gus Edwards – and other transfers – are told where they can and cannot go when they want to leave their current school.
And that’s part of what infuriates me about the NCAA. Time and again, we hear both that it’s “all about the student-athletes” but that they don’t want student-athletes to receive any benefits that regular students get.
Well, what about keeping that playing field between student-athletes and regular students level going both ways? I’m not even going to get started on the ability to earn money as a student-athlete (virtually nonexistent), I’m talking about what happens when a regular student decides to transfer. The answer: nothing. They’re free to go anywhere they please, and there’s nothing the school can do to stop them.
Student-athletes, meanwhile, first have to get a release (which the school is not required to grant), and then can impose restrictions on where the student-athlete can go. Do you think that if some wunderkind science prodigy studying at Carnegie Mellon wanted to head off to graduate school at MIT, he’d be restricted for fear of him taking his research with him and giving MIT a leg up on some groundbreaking technology?
Hell fucking no.
One student-athlete leaving a program to play elsewhere isn’t going to really impact the program he’s leaving, in virtually every case. Gus Edwards is the backup running back at Miami, yet Richt blocks him as if we’re talking about Tom Brady defecting to go play for the Broncos. Meanwhile, again, coaches are free to come and go as they please, with the ability to set the program they’re leaving back substantially.
Look at Western Michigan and PJ Fleck. When he left for the Minnesota job, he did an absurd amount of damage to the program he was leaving. On his first day being named the head coach of the Gophers, he flipped six commits from WMU to Minnesota. That number has since gone up, meaning that Fleck has gutted Western Michigan’s recruiting class, picking and choosing the best players now that he’s got a Power 5 job.
That’s all well and good, though. A guy like Gus Edwards, who will be receiving his degree from Miami this spring, owing them nothing else, is told where he can and cannot go, however.
Making this even more frustrating is looking back at a quote from Mark Richt himself, on whether or not he thinks transfers should be restricted:
“I have unconditionally released every guy that ever wanted to leave,” Richt explained to the media yesterday. “I’d call the commissioner [of the conference] and say, ‘Hey, if the kid wants to go…let him go wherever he wants to go.”
Until now anyway, right Mark?
Fortunately, history shows that in most of these cases when a school tries to block a graduate transfer, logic prevails. It happened when Michigan tried to stop Spike Albrecht from transferring to Purdue to play basketball, and it happened when Alabama attempted to block Maurice Smith from transferring to play football at Georgia. Eventually, public outcry seems to remind these coaches and colleges that they’re hurting student-athletes, and they relent.
Here’s hoping that pattern continues, and Gus Edwards is allowed to transfer wherever he pleases, with no restrictions. And hopefully for us, that transfer destination is Syracuse.