Chances are, if you’re over 30, you’ve changed jobs before. Maybe it was for better benefits or pay, or perhaps to be closer to family. Whatever the reason, you probably weren’t criticized for it, and nobody argued that you shouldn’t have the legal right to do so.
Unfortunately, this isn’t the case for college athletes. Due to a convergence of factors like COVID-19 and changing public opinion, college athletes now have more freedom of movement than ever before. Players no longer have to sit out a year after transferring, and their moves are not scrutinized as closely as they once were. You would think that the primary benefactors of student-athlete labor would support this development, but that has not been the case, as illustrated by Michigan State’s Hall of Fame basketball coach, Tom Izzo.
“I’m a bad guy to talk to about the portal because it’s ridiculous,” said Izzo to the Illini Inquirer. “I think all the people that thought it might be a good idea to give kids some freedom? I don’t think they feel that today. To transfer whenever you want, leave whenever you want, do whatever you want. I’m glad it wasn’t that way when I was in school because I would’ve made a lot of bad mistakes.”
This stance is bad enough on its own, but it’s even worse when you consider the fact that coaches have always enjoyed the freedom that players have now. Coaches have always been able to move from job to job with virtually no consequences. In fact, a coach could recruit players under the impression that he would be there for all four years, then leave before the season even starts if he gets a better offer, while the players are still bound by a letter of intent. And while Tom Izzo himself has been stable during his tenure at Michigan State, plenty of other coaches have left players high and dry in search of greener pastures.
Movement is restricted in professional sports, but such restrictions make sense in a league with multi-million-dollar contracts. Student-athletes are not paid for their play, so the rules that govern professional sports shouldn’t apply.
Unfortunately, it does look like the NCAA has bent to the concerns of the coaches. They just announced much more restrictive transfer rules. Rules that notably don’t even grant an exception for the departure of a coach.
I was never one of those fans who got upset when a coach switched schools. They simply want to make decisions in their best interest, like anyone else. However, I don’t think it’s too much to ask that the coaches, who make millions off the backs of these athletes, support their freedom of movement as well.