As March Madness heads towards the final weekend, there are many smiles for the remaining four teams on the men’s side. There are also a lot of unhappy players out there that are leaving their school in search of that one shining moment somewhere else.
The transfer rate in men’s D1 basketball is staggering. NCAA President Mark Emmert says about 40% of men’s basketball players transfer within their first couple of seasons. Almost HALF leave their school as freshmen or sophomores! The number one reason? Playing time. There are others, such as personal reasons and wanting to get back closer to home, but playing time is the biggie. Whenever I have talked on the recruiting process, I urge families and their athletes to look at that part closely. Many have been on the court or field constantly because they are pretty good in high school and club, and a lot of them do not have the inner strength to deal with losing their spot to someone else.
One of the writers from the St. Louis Post Dispatch (one of the best papers in my opinion), Stu Durando, quoted the following experts with their perspectives on what is happening:
“Each situation is different, so to stereotype with a broad paint brush is probably unfair, but I would say it’s that deal where kids right now want to know what they’re getting out of it. It’s an instant gratification society, an entitlement society a little bit, and because of that we’ve seen a great increase in transfers. The patience level of kids is not quite what it used to be. When I played, when you were a freshman and sophomore you kind of knew you had to pay your dues. … That mind-set has changed. Kids want it now.” – John Groce, Illinois Head Coach.
“The (college) transfer rate mimics the transfer rate in high schools and among AAU teams. As a society we’ve enabled this generation to go to the next opportunity. They haven’t learned to fight through adversity. They just look for their next chance. All they’re doing is mimicking what they see.” – Dave Telep, ESPN basketball recruiting analyst.
“It’s easier to just go somewhere else than face whatever adversity. The other thing is that there are a million people in these kids’ ears — a lot of outside forces, whether it’s AAU coaches or relatives or who knows what.” – Mario Moccia, Southern Illinois University-Carbondale Athletic Director.
Arizona State men’s basketball coach Herb Sendek shared this with the media: “If you look at the guys who have transferred from our program, almost 100% have been because of playing time. It’s a national epidemic.”
There can be some positives to it. Valparaiso went into this season with 7 transfers and as a result made the Big Dance for the first time in years. Sometimes a new location is a positive, but too often players are high tailing it because of lack of playing time. As a result, their academics often suffer. At a place like Valpo, their head coach Bryce Drew is of the character where he will make sure they are doing the academic work, but there are cases where players transfer, lose some credits, play until their eligibility is up and not get their degree.
Athletes that play D1 or any other high level college sport have to understand they may lose playing time to someone who is simply better than them. At the D1 level they have to realize how brutally intense it is. These coaches are making big salaries and under pressure to win, or else. For example, college football coaches used to have 5 years to turn a program around. Now, it’s 3 years in most cases. While the transfer rate in D1 sports other than basketball isn’t at the whopping 40% rate like men’s hoops, there are always athletes transferring with the primary reason being playing time. Where I live here in South Bend, IN, Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly was brutally honest on the subject in a recent session with reporters when he said this: “I know what I laid down within the program about expectations and the parameters for all positions is that I’m going to recruit somebody to beat you out. I do it in the right way. I’m not saying it’s a callous, cold way of doing it, but my job is to continue to bring in the best fits for Notre Dame, both on and off the field. So, if you’re a bit uneasy about the situation, then I welcome your transfer. Try to continue that competition within the ranks, because the guys that crack are the ones you want to crack. I can tell you if the program’s humming and it’s doing it the right way, you’re going to have some transfers, because you’re building competition within the ranks. And it’s always going to be that way.” Kelly said that was his approach when he was coach at D2 power Grand Valley State as well. Kathy DeBoer, former college volleyball coach at various levels including D1, has told me that she would sign a girl, give her a hug, and go out the door to recruit someone better than her.
Kelly shared his candid thoughts as one of the most disappointing stories in college sports. Former superstar high school quarterback Gunner Kiel decided to transfer from Notre Dame. Coming out of high school, Kiel was a big time talent with serious NFL potential. He first announced for Indiana and then changed his mind. He then announced for LSU and changed his mind. He then announced for Notre Dame. Turns out, Kelly has gone with young Everett Golson as QB and Kiel saw the writing on the wall that Golson had 3 more years. Kiel has decided to leave, meaning he will get two whole years without playing. He red shirted this year and will have to sit out this coming year. In his case, he had to transfer. He has legitimate NFL potential, so he has to be playing somewhere. As his recruiting was going on, I felt he should have signed with Indiana because he would have played there early and been a part of an up and coming program. Kiel has admitted the whole recruiting process was confusing and he probably over-analyzed things. No doubt, it can be tough. It is why I am a big believer in families having the recruiting coaches at NCSA for counsel, so that they know which camps and showcases to go to, and can get feedback on what level to play with in college. These recruiting coaches and scouts at NCSA can pick up on a kid’s burning desire to play, and help them target schools and rosters with legitimate early playing time.
It is important to be educated by credible 3rd party sources to find out what level your son or daughter best fits at academically and athletically, and to discuss factors such as the importance of playing time. You can talk to a NCSA National Scout to get evaluated and receive the assistance and education that all student-athletes should have while trying to get to the next level. Call a scout now at 866-495-7727 or click here to start the process.
Charlie Adams is a motivational speaker and the author of 4 books on peak performance and the power of attitude. As a sports anchor for a quarter of a century, he covered the recruiting process closely. As a speaker, he constantly has corporate leaders tell him they often look to hire former college athletes because of their ability to manage time, their competitive spirits, team play, and leadership abilities. For more information on his motivational programs you can go to StokeTheFireWithin.com