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Chris Collins on grad transfers: Mid-majors hold players back academically

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"So you know what’s happening now at all mid-major programs? They don’t let their kids go to summer school. They don’t let them get ahead. They won’t let ‘em graduate. Is that what upper level education is all about?" 

Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Grad transfers, and transfers in general, have been a hot topic in college basketball as of late. Many coaches, including Northwestern's Chris Collins, have weighed in on the NCAA's rules and the proliferation of players swapping one program for another.

Collins joined our Pound The Talk podcast last Wednesday (released Monday), and when asked about his comments, had a very passionate — and lengthy — response.

The full podcast can be found on iTunes, or right here (Collins addresses transfers at the 35:30 mark):

The transcript of Collins' comments on transfers is below.

Henry Bushnell: You were recently quoted in an ESPN article about grad transfers, and you said, “It’s a vicious cycle. Where we’re headed is ultimately free agency, and that’s not a good thing.” Why isn’t it a good thing? Can you expand on that a bit?

Chris Collins: I think if there was freedom of players midseason, or at the end of seasons, to go to any team at any point… and now you got guys transferring in league, I think you’re going to have coaches on each others’ campuses. That’s going to cause a problem.

I’m all for the players having rights. And people talk all the time about how coaches can leave… yeah, well we can leave, but we have to pay. And usually those buyouts are 7 figures. So we can’t leave without penalty. Out penalty isn’t games. Out penalty is in our pockets. So there’s a misnomer there, that a coach can just get up and leave. Yeah, he can, but he’s gotta pay. The penalty for the player is, they don’t lose eligibility, they can redshirt, but if they want to leave — and they should have the right to leave, and I’m all for that.

I’m just not all for a player being able to leave and be eligible right away with no [penalty]… because you’re going to create a situation where a lot of bad things are going to happen, where I’m on Michigan’s campus, and Michigan’s on Indiana’s campus, and now guys are poaching guys in the middle of seasons. Can you imagine a time where Duke doesn’t have a point guard because Tyus Jones goes pro, and so a week before school, they’re on my campus and [saying], ‘okay, we need Bryant McIntosh.’ And a week later he leaves. I don’t think that’s a good thing for college sports.

HB: But to use the free agency comparison…

CC: That’s what I meant by that.

HB: But isn’t it the same thing as recruiting? As a recruit, essentially you sign a four-year contract with the university…

CC: Well not everybody does four-year. We do. Most people are one-year renewables.

HB: Okay, but isn’t a grad transfer the same thing as recruiting?

CC: Yeah I’m talking more undergraduate. That’s what I meant by the vicious cycle. I wasn’t talking about grad transfers. I was talking about undergrad transfers. That quote you were talking about was undergrad transfers.

And they’ve finally eliminated waivers. Because they were getting so free with letting kids be eligible, and that’s what was happening, people were poaching.

The thing I don’t like about with grad transfers, the only thing I don’t like: A kid should have a right; He graduates, he should have a right. But hardly any of those kids are getting a master’s, if you look at the data. And I get it.

And now, what you’re having is — [former Drexel coach] Bruiser Flint lost his job because the best player in his league [Damion Lee], a week before school started, went to Louisville. He lost his job. So you know what’s happening now at all mid-major programs? They don’t let their kids go to summer school. They don’t let them get ahead. They won’t let ‘em graduate. Is that what upper level education is all about? Aren’t we still academic institutions? That want our kids to graduate?

So let me ask you a question. If you’re coaching at Drexel, and you got the best player in the league, are you going to let him graduate? With the fear that Duke, Carolina or Kentucky? Or are you going to hold him back academically so he doesn’t leave you? Honestly. Answer me honestly.

Cleveland State had Bryn Forbes, Trey Lewis from Louisville, and Anton Grady, who was Wichita State’s starting center. They all got poached from Cleveland State. A guy may lose his job over that. So that’s all I’m saying. That’s all I’m saying.

I just feel like college basketball — I get it’s big business, but it should also be a little bit about academics.

And the quote you were referring to was more undergrad, I think you have to sit. But for grad transfers, I just think we need to talk about it.

And also too, we’re fortunate, we have one-year master’s programs. Most every other school, master’s programs are two years. So one of the talks is — the rule was put in place for kids who wanted to go to grad school. It wasn’t put in for an athletic reason. It was put in for a kid who didn’t have a grad opportunity at the school he was at, and wanted to go to a specific grad school. So if you have a two-year program, why not make it, ‘hey, we’ll pay for two years’? You sit for a year, we’ll give you two years of schooling, you can get your grad degree, and you can play for one [season]. That’s all we were saying as a conference.