Smart’s whin­ing about NCAA trans­fer por­tal is mu­sic to my ears

The Charlotte Observer (Sunday) - - Sports - BY MICHAEL CUN­NING­HAM At­lanta Jour­nal-Con­sti­tu­tion

The trans­fer rule the NCAA adopted last year is a good idea that didn’t go far enough. Play­ers gen­er­ate moun­tains of rev­enue but re­ceive very lit­tle of that money, so they at least should have more power to de­cide where they play. Pro­hibit­ing coaches from block­ing trans­fers was a small, pos­i­tive step to­ward more fair­ness for play­ers.

The ben­e­fit of the rule for me is hear­ing coaches whine about it. This is par­tic­u­larly the case with col­lege foot­ball coaches, whose ranks are filled with hyp­ocrites and au­thor­i­tar­i­ans lack­ing in self-aware­ness. It’s amus­ing when peo­ple like that play the vic­tim, and the coaches have come through just like I ex­pected.

Den­nis Dodd of CBSS­ re­cently checked in with some prom­i­nent coaches for their views of the trans­fer rule seven months af­ter it went into ef­fect. You won’t be sur­prised to learn that these coaches have some con­cerns about play­ers be­ing able to en­ter the trans­fer por­tal while coaches can’t do any­thing about it.

Ge­or­gia coach Kirby Smart is among the moan­ers.

“My big­gest prob­lem with the por­tal is that it gives kids an easy way out,” Smart told Dodd. “I know the devil’s ad­vo­cate of play­ers’ rights and they should be able to go wher­ever they want to go. But I’m telling you, no nor­mal par­ent would say, ‘At the first sign of trou­ble, I want my son to run.’ “

Give Smart credit for con­sid­er­ing both sides. On the one hand, Smart be­lieves play­ers who gen­er­ate mil­lions of dol­lars for their schools with­out mar­ket com­pen­sa­tion should have a right to work where they please. On the other hand, if play­ers trans­fer at a time and for rea­sons that Smart doesn’t like, then they are cowards with bad par­ents.

Lis­ten, Smart is just look­ing out for the kids. Play­ers who aren’t happy with their work sit­u­a­tion should stick around. That builds char­ac­ter. It’s likely a co­in­ci­dence that tal­ented play­ers stay­ing put at Ge­or­gia helps Smart build his bank ac­count, which will swell by at least $49 mil­lion by the end of his lat­est con­tract.

It’s not the first time Smart has moaned about the trans­fer por­tal. He also com­plained dur­ing a Sir­ius XM in­ter­view in April. Said Smart: “Peo­ple can say, ‘Well, coach, you are free to go wher­ever you want to go’ (but) we also have a con­tract and they are free to fire us any­time they want.”

Yes, coaches have con­tracts. Those con­tracts pay them a salary. Coaches usu­ally are owed money if they are fired be­fore the end of those con­tracts. And coaches reg­u­larly re­ceive new, bet­ter con­tracts be­fore their cur­rent deals end.

Other than those mi­nor dif­fer­ences, Smart makes a good point about coaches fac­ing sim­i­lar ca­reer re­stric­tions as play­ers.

Smart knows how it goes. He worked at three schools within his first five years of coach­ing, then four dif­fer­ent jobs over the next four. Pre­sum­ably Smart was look­ing for bet­ter ca­reer op­por­tu­ni­ties, as many peo­ple do, and not run­ning away from chal­lenges.

Now Smart is near the top of his pro­fes­sion. He was un­der con­tract at Ge­or­gia when he re­ceived a $49 mil­lion deal that made him the sixth-high­est paid head coach. If Ge­or­gia fired Smart now, it would owe him about $28 mil­lion.

Smart and his coach­ing col­leagues ben­e­fit from a freemar­ket sys­tem that’s avail­able to pretty much ev­ery class of worker in the U.S. ex­cept for NCAA ath­letes. The NCAA’s col­lu­sive, ex­ploita­tive sys­tem op­er­ates with the bless­ing of the Congress and the courts. The NCAA is un­der­go­ing mod­est re­forms that ben­e­fit play­ers only be­cause the money has got­ten so big that more peo­ple, in­clud­ing law­mak­ers, have started notic­ing the im­bal­ance.

It’s telling that Smart and other coaches gripe about the trans­fer por­tal even though there re­main ma­jor dis­in­cen­tives for play­ers us­ing it.

Play­ers must sit out for a sea­son if they trans­fer to a school at the same or higher NCAA level. The ex­cep­tions are if a player has grad­u­ated, or if they are get a hard­ship waiver from the NCAA.

Those waivers have been granted to some high-pro­file trans­fers, in­clud­ing quar­ter­back Justin Fields, who left Ge­or­gia for Ohio State af­ter last sea­son. No sur­prise that the waivers are an­other rea­son for mul­ti­mil­lion­aire coaches to wail about the un­fair­ness of it all.

In ad­di­tion to the trans­fer re­stric­tions, there’s an­other de­ter­rent for play­ers look­ing to leave.

“Once we see you’re in the por­tal, you can be cut,” Smart told Dodd.

It’s weird that Smart said that. No way would he or any other coach use the threat of cut­ting a player to dis­suade them from putting their name in the trans­fer por­tal. Re­mem­ber, these coaches are look­ing out for the best in­ter­ests of the kids.

Mind you, the trans­fer por­tal does noth­ing to change the NCAA’s sham “am­a­teur” sys­tem.

Coaches still can bolt for other jobs with no NCAA re­stric­tions and play­ers still can’t. Coaches still can be mul­ti­mil­lion­aires while play­ers earn no salaries. The NCAA still will re­ceive more than $1 bil­lion in rev­enue, most of it from sell­ing the rights to tele­vise the games that peo­ple watch to see those ath­letes per­form.

All the trans­fer por­tal does is give NCAA ath­letes a tiny bit of power to con­trol their ca­reers. That’s enough to make Smart and other coaches whine.

Kirby Smart

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