The rights of college athletes have long been a debate amongst fans and the sports media, after all, it is by their work that dynasties are built and memories are made. Not to mention the millions of dollars that schools and the NCAA reap from bringing us the entertainment. It’s become popular the last several years to demonize college athletics governing body as corrupt (which it is) and unfair (ditto).

As an offshoot of this thinking, many folks have developed a knee-jerk reaction to all rules from the NCAA, protesting anything coming down the pipe. The one that has long been used as a shining example of hypocrisy by critics has been the NCAA’s transfers rules. Originally any athlete wishing to transfer from one FBS (formerly known as Division I) school to another would be required to sit out for one year and lose a year from the five-year clock that started when they enrolled in college.

If the player was lucky, they still had a redshirt year available. As time went on the rule has been amended to allow for exceptions. Student-athletes who have already graduated have an opportunity to transfer for grad school without sitting out. The NCAA has also created a system for players who have extenuating circumstances requiring relocation and a waiver process that allows some to play right away.

However, at the end of the day, the only acceptable solution for many is that athletes be able to transfer freely without penalty at all times for any reason. Like most situations, this is the most popular opinion because it is the simplest and the easiest to understand. This is America.

People are supposed to be free to do whatever they want. The coaches get to leave whenever they want. If this was a real job, kids could job hop as much as they felt like. And like most issues we face in this country these days, this issue is more complex than the simplest answer can solve.

Recently, rule changes have been proposed to allow for players to transfer freely and the idea has been met with sweeping approval without any thought toward the consequences. Nobody is talking about the absolute chaos that would ensue in the immediate aftermath of that kind of rule change. It would essentially ruin college football and basketball, as we know it. If you look at it purely from a Kentucky point of view, open transfer season would end all hope of fielding a competitive football team.

Kentucky already struggles to recruit at a level that allows the program to compete with the elite level schools on their SEC schedule. What happens when they do find a breakout star like Benny Snell and his home state Buckeyes need a running back? Do fans want to wring their hands every time Mark Stoops and his staff develop a star player? Does anyone want to watch a team that would essentially become a minor league program, a feeder school for traditional powers with more history and money? University of Kentucky Junior College.

If you are the administration at one of those schools do you really want to put in all of the effort and money to recruit and develop that player into a star, knowing that your efforts will oftentimes be for nothing? This rule would be a program killer for schools like Kentucky, unless they decided to break away from the NCAA altogether and create a league for similar schools.

We haven’t even mentioned the players that aren’t being actively recruited by other schools. The ones that maybe don’t get the playing time they want in a given year, or a month, or in a single game. Because eighteen and nineteen year olds are impulsive and don’t always make the most sound decisions.

We have to create warning campaigns to stop them from eating laundry detergent. Do we want to live in a world where Lynn Bowden, upset about his playing time at Southern Miss, can make a snap decision while he is upset and decide to leave? Boom Williams? Any freshman that gets homesick? (Most of them do)

How about the guy that leaves because of his girlfriend going to another school? The possibilities of the list are endless. There has never been a successful league that has yearly roster churn. Perhaps the closest thing is college basketball’s one-and-done rule that Kentucky fans are already very familiar with.

Many of you are already growing tired of the system that breeds no familiarity with the players on the team. Now imagine those players leaving yearly, but not for millions of dollars, just for another college team. If you aren’t excited about Cal’s newest class of mercenaries under the current system, how will you feel when Kentucky is taking players from other teams, because they will. A

t what point does the experience get cheapened? How far is too far? For some it won’t matter, as long as they win. But college athletics wasn’t built on front-runners. The monster didn’t become what it is today because it appealed to fans of winning. People want to believe in a team. People want to love their players, their heroes. At what point do seats go empty and TV sets change the channel to something else?

Image courtesy of Braxton Howard