The worst rule in college athletics (and there are many) is the one that allows schools to hold potential transfers hostage as to their final destination. Even though coaches are free to leave to go to other Universities at the drop of a hat, if a player would like to start his college career elsewhere, college football programs can prevent that player from playing for a new team for at least two seasons. It allows Universities to essentially hold kids as hostages. Either you stay at their school, and risk getting no playing time at the whims of your particular coach, or they can control which schools you can transfer to and what your future will be.
Take the case of Wide Receiver De’Anthony Arnett, who has been a player for Tennessee. The speedster is from Michigan and his father is currently very ill, causing Arnett to want to transfer close to home. Pretty simple right? However Tennessee is refusing to allow him to transfer to the top schools in his area.. From an article on the issue:
In the school’s first official comments since news broke Wednesday that the freshman was seeking a release from his scholarship to be closer to his ailing father in Saginaw, Mich., UT spokesman Jimmy Stanton laid out why Arnett would not be able to transfer to a school such as Michigan, Michigan State or any other big-name program.
“We’re not denying him a release to be near his family, get a good education and play Division I football at the same time, but we do have a policy of not releasing players to schools we either play or recruit against,” Stanton said Thursday. “Where he’s from, there are several good D-I schools nearby that would be good options to play football, get a good education and keep him near his family.”
In an e-mail sent to multiple media outlets, including the News Sentinel, Arnett detailed his father’s battle with a lung disease, his family’s financial troubles and his desire to land with either the Wolverines or Spartans. Arnett added that coach Derek Dooley indicated UT would allow him to transfer to schools in the Mid-American Conference.
“… If I wanted to attend The University of Michigan and Michigan State University then I would have to pay for school instead of be on the Scholorship (sic),” Arnett wrote. “I dont know whats next my family cant afford to pay for school and my father health reason isnt good enough excuse for me to attend a BCS school close to home. (According to coach dooley).
“Therefore as a student athlete I feel coach dooley is trying to hinder my success by not allowing me to compete at a bcs level! And he’s neglecting the fact that my father is severely ill.”
Arnett wrote that his mother, Virginia, was only able to attend one of his games this past season. Nearby Division I schools at Arnett’s disposal that would not be eliminated by UT’s parameters include Eastern Michigan, Western Michigan, Central Michigan, Toledo and Bowling Green.
“I never imagined being unable to have my dad at any games or me being able to see him as he endures his battle with health,” Arnett wrote. “Yes I want to play football but I NEED to be here for my dad and with my family.”
There is simply no excuse for Dooley and Tennessee’s actions. It is bad enough that a kid seeking a fresh start or simply a change in location has to deal with the absurdity of this NCAA rule. But for Dooley and UT to hold a player hostage who wants to be close to his sick father is beyond outrageous. What difference does it make to Derek Dooley and the Vols where Arnett plays while being close to his parents? Is it simply because they might theoretically have to recruit against the Wolverines or Spartans? Because his father was unfortunate enough to become ill, Dooley now gets to make sure he plays in the MAC instead of the Big Ten?
College athletics is occasionally analogized to modern day slavery by columnists seeking to engage in hyperbole while making otherwise valid points. But allowing a coach to control a student’s future for two years after he leaves the school for no other reason than a theoretical recruiting hinderance makes one wonder if occasionally such analogies do hit their targets.