College Athletic Free Agency a Potential Plus for DU

An undergraduate football player (former Northern Illinois punter Peter Deppe) has filed a lawsuit challenging the NCAA rule that requires an undergraduate transfer to fulfill a one-year residence requirement at the institution he transfers to before he is eligible to compete. The case is expected to be heard early in 2017. Of course, the NCAA is prepared to vigorously defend the present NCAA status quo which tips the balance in the favor of the institutions and not the best interest of the athletes.

The argument by universities against the new rule? The result would mean any student-athlete transfers would be immediately eligible to transfer and play – no one year ‘sitting out’.  Proponents argue that student-athletes would be transferring in huge numbers looking for a better playing situation: more playing time, more television exposure, better role on the team, etc..  Verbal Commits reported a whopping 841 transfers in 2015 for basketball alone. Proponents of the status quo argue that college coaches would be actively recruiting players competing on other teams during the collegiate basketball season.   The negative implications on team APR (grades) and graduation success could be significant based on how many student-athletes transfer between schools in any given year.

Why should power five conferences be able to hoard top players to stock their benches? If a player truly wants more playing time or if their situation is untenable, why should they be penalized by a 1-year transfer penalty? Other students can transfer at will whenever they want a change – scholarship or not. Coaches can leave whenever they want- why the double standard for athletes?

So how would the University of Denver be affected?

As a mid-major university, DU would be subject to losing high-performing athletes to power five programs. Theoretically, DU could develop underclassmen only to lose these top performers to other programs. Also, some larger schools offer more generous cost-of-attendance (CoA) payments.

However, Denver likely would receive the benefit of a net in-flow of athletes. Denver’s solid academic reputation combined with excellent facilities are a solid drawing card. Add good coaching staffs and a vibrant Denver metro area and DU is dealing from a position of strength – especially against other mid-major programs. One negative would be DU’s reluctance to take transfers – they prefer to develop their own athletes over four years. However, there are some recent exceptions when DU was willing to accept transfers (Connor Cannizzaro, lacrosse; Packy Munson, hockey) if they meet a need.

Finally, regardless of school size, free agency would push universities to recruit players in a fair, open, honest way or risk losing them with false promises. Schools that deal with incoming student-athletes honestly and openly will be rewarded with stable athletic rosters. Those that do not treat their student-athletes correctly will be justly penalized.

It will be interesting to watch how this suit plays out and we will keep a close eye on it as this will undoubtedly have an effect on DU Athletics.