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Imagining trades in the NCAA

Intra-sport trades are now legal in the Big Ten. Go.

NCAA Football: Big Ten Championship-Ohio State vs Wisconsin Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Huddled in a dimly lit room that looks more like a closet than an office, the Blogger is bordering on insanity. He’s been in this room for months, ever since basketball season faded into oblivion and the NFL Draft came and went. His desk is covered in residue from Nacho Cheese Doritos, and papers are strewn all around. He’s nursing a prickly, patchy beard.

Most people live for summertime, but this blogger — a college blogger — is a creature of the media underworld. He slyly probes through the depths of Reddit and Twitter, seeking theories, arguments and unsolved mysteries. The summer light burns his pale face. You see, the Blogger lives for the fall and the winter, when schools are in session and revenue sports come back to feed his vociferous content cravings.

Early July is the worst. Football camps are just beginning, but nothing substantive really comes from those quite yet. He spends his days anticipating, waiting, hoping for action. He incessantly and obsessively scans the depths of the internet, until his bloodshot eyes lock onto what he’s looking for: news, typically in the form of a big transfer or recruiting development to satisfy his need for content. In those moments, the Blogger emulates a journalist; for a stint, he’s one of the Big-Js that sits in brighter, more expansive newsrooms to give the takes the public needs.

The times in between these news-filled moments, however, are when the Blogger comes alive, when the Batman suit comes on. Those are the fleeting moments that give the Blogger purpose. They’re the stretches of dead time where the computer cursor blinks aimlessly at the top of the page and the machinations begin. These are the periods of time that make the Blogger unique. These are times when only someone like the Blogger has time to think about the impossible, the hypothetical and the downright crazy.

While most people tune their minds in on gameday or when news breaks, the Blogger’s mind constantly churns through scenarios, possibilities and recruiting databases. His mind is computing, calculating and filing tidbits away for later. And every so often, when the refined sugar and nacho cheese dust from the Doritos stimulates the brain just enough, the gears in his mind come to an abrupt halt. Something clicks. All at once, the lightbulbs activate and shine bright. The Blogger now has direction in his life. An idea is born.

This is that idea.


Forget everything you know about the NCAA. Except the teams and players, you’ll need those. But you won’t need the rules that constrain the fun of college sports. This is a new universe, where creative minds flourish and the boring are left for dead.

Prepare yourselves, the trades era is upon us.

For simplicity’s sake, I’ve limited the scope of what is possible. Eventually, the scope will be all-encompassing, but for this article on this site, there are barriers to what can be done. Inter-sport trades would be wild, but, for now, those aren’t possible.

Here’s how things work. Within the Big Ten, intra-sport trades are legal. Coaches for coaches and coaches for players, both allowed so long as all people involved come from the same sport. For now, we’ll stick with football and men’s basketball.

Trading players and coaches is already revolutionary at the college level, but there needs to be some kind of future assets involved. In this universe, there are a few. First, scholarships — simple enough. For example, if Northwestern trades a 2020 scholarship to Wisconsin for a player, Wisconsin has an extra slot in 2020, and Northwestern has one fewer. There are Title IX implications that would obviously curtail this kind of swap in real-life, even if the concept of trades were allowed, but work with me here. It’s not real anyway.

A second tradable future asset are games on the schedule, so long as an equal number of games are traded by each school. The parameters here are that Big Ten games can only be traded for Big Ten games and non-conference games can only be traded for non-conference games, and teams can only play other schools no more than twice (and three times for basketball) in a season. Teams can also only trade one matchup per season. For scheduling purposes, football scheduling trades need align weeks. Basketball has more freedom scheduling-wise, so teams can move weeknight games and things of that nature if they opt to swap games. So, Northwestern could trade its home football game against Michigan to Nebraska this season and receive Nebraska’s home game against Purdue, because that game had already been scheduled for same week.

Yes, Northwestern would be playing Purdue twice in four weeks, and schedule balancing would get messed up. But it also adds a new element of strategy: clearly matchups are extremely important, so theoretically it would take a special player or package of players for that to occur. Limiting teams to one schedule-related trade per season seeks to mitigate the balancing issue, at least to a degree.

Because schedule trades only be swapped if they occur the same week, the NCAA would have to create all league and non-conference schedules to prevent collusion. For non-conference games, teams submit teams they wish to play, and the NCAA approves some of them to form a non-conference slate of games.

All players are eligible to play immediately upon switching teams, because the rule now sucks. This should go without saying, but trades cannot happen midseason, because there needs to be some semblance of academics in college sports.

So, with all that said, what trades would you like to see within the Big Ten? Let us know! We’ll compile the best ones into an article, and offer up some of our own.