MISSOULA — If a one-time transfer exception currently being considered by the NCAA continues to gain traction and eventually passes, the entire landscape of college sports could be very different a year from now.
On Monday, the Atlantic Coast Conference announced it supported a Big Ten Conference proposal to allow all undergraduate athletes in all sports to transfer once without sitting out for a year. Currently, every NCAA sport other than baseball, men’s and women’s basketball, football and ice hockey allows student-athletes to be immediately eligible to play.
While this gives student-athletes more freedom to choose how their career plays out, some coaches have expressed concern. One fear is that high-major basketball and Power 5 football teams could raid lesser leagues for talent.
“It doesn’t benefit us,” Montana head men’s basketball coach Travis DeCuire said. “It’s one level that will benefit from that and it’s the guys that are going to be recruiting off our rosters.”
Other coaches around the country have expressed concern for a variety of reasons, some calling it free agency. Former Georgia and Miami (FL) head football coach Mark Richt had concerns similar to DeCuire's.
He said in a tweet: “I know, I have an idea. You recruit and develop players and when I think they’re good enough I will poach them from your roster! Welcome to what the new normal will look like in college football!”
Montana currently has six players on its roster who are transfers: Kendal Manuel, Naseem Gaskin, Yagi Selcuk, Michael Steadman, Jared Samuelson and Darius Henderson.
Manuel was immediately eligible to transfer from Oregon State — though Montana did not know until hours before tip of the 2018-19 season opener — as was Jared Samuelson, who transferred up from NAIA Rocky Mountain College.
Selcuk and Darius Henderson were each midyear transfers, putting them in the uncomfortable position of having to sit out half of two separate seasons. Steadman and Gaskin were both preseason transfers and have had to sit out this season. Gaskin also had a waiver request denied by the NCAA, another part of the transfer process the organization is trying to fix.
Regardless of how the rest of the process plays out, it is sure to be controversial.
“I think that you lose sight of commitment, time and the development of a young man, a student athlete; to lose them under those circumstances in the long run can be very negative for teams at this level,” DeCuire said.
Heading into the Cat-Griz game and the final stretch of the season, a week with just one game is a welcome break for Montana.
Montana has played games on Thursday and then again on Saturday for four straight weeks. When the Grizzlies tip off against Montana State it will be the first time since December they’ve had seven days between games.
“Sometimes too much time off, I don’t know it’s great, but we needed it,” DeCuire said. “We needed to get fresh. I think it’s going to be more beneficial in three weeks more so than this weekend. We’re looking forward to coming out and being fresh.”
Added sophomore forward Mack Anderson: “It’s great, I feel like this might be one of the first times since conference has started that we’ve had that full week going into a Saturday game. So that’s been real nice, we had a day off to get our bodies right (Tuesday) and then just, I mean, work on stuff and prepare for the next couple weeks when we have all this time off, it’s been good for sure."
Montana’s health seems to be trending in the right direction.
Sophomore forward Yagi Selcuk was back practicing for Montana after a dental procedure and Eddy Egun has showed no lingering signs of a rolled ankle. Junior guard Timmy Falls is still questionable for Saturday’s game against the Bobcats, though signs seem to be pointing in a positive direction for him as well.