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A lot has been made this year of the transfer epidemic in college basketball, and rightfully so. On average this summer, more than 1 player per school has switched schools, whether it come from a coach change, an unfulfilled promise, or just a lack of playing time.

I’m starting to believe college football has a similar problem, although completely different. And it’s not one that’s likely to be covered as much as it has to do with the lesser division, the FCS. And unlike college basketball’s problem, quantity isn’t necessarily the issue.

It’s quality.

And that everyone seems okay with it, when it’s happening to their program.

At this year’s OVC Media Day, Murray State head coach Chris Hatcher told us that he always keeps a few scholarships open, in case a FBS transfer comes his way, and I’d bet the rest of the coaches do as well.

And this year, 3 have fallen Hatcher’s way, including the highly touted Ohio State transfer Jamaal Berry. Tennessee Tech is a beneficiary of a rule allowing FBS transfers to be immediately eligible as well, with the addition of all-SEC wide receiver Da’Rick Rogers.

And when the “Honey Badger” was on the market, Jacksonville State was one of at least 20 teams wanting a chance to acquire the LSU standout.

And from a performance side it makes sense. These players have the ability to be true game changers at this level.

But these players aren’t leaving because they aren’t getting enough playing time. They’re leaving because they’re getting suspended, and kicked off FBS teams.

And the violations vary. Often, marijuana is involved, which isn’t exactly groundbreaking news when a college student is involved. But assault violations? (Berry) Reports of getting in brawls with teammates? (Rogers)

If these college kids weren’t football players, would you want them on your campus?

Every time one of these players is brought on campus, someone in the media always asks what the coaches think about their past. And the response is almost always along of the line of “we talked to him,” and that their school “provides a better environment” and that they’ll be watching him.

And it all boils down to this:

He’s a good guy, who made a few bad decisions.

To be fair, many if not most probably are good guys, and I’m not saying that any person mentioned by name or by association in this post isn’t.

But they can’t call be “good guys.” Some of these players that get kicked out of these programs didn’t just have one bad decision, they have a history of them, and a future of continuing to make them.

And I’m supposed to believe that a coach in one or two conversations can tell which category that player will fall?

The NCAA likes to say that FCS is still Division I football, and technically, it is. Then why does this transfer exception apply to FBS players who go to the FCS? If it’s all Division I, why doesn’t the same restriction on transfers in college basketball apply to college football.

And though I’m sure (at least I hope) the number of scholarships behind held back is less than 5 per program, you do realize that giving these FBS players a second chance is costing other players not only a chance to play, but sometimes a chance to study at these universities. Again, this problem is minor, and I’m again sure (at least hoping) that any unused scholarships do get handed down once it’s clear no more transfers are coming.

And I feel it needs to be said again…these players transferring in to OVC programs this year might make the most out of their second chance.

But not all will.

They’re not all “good guys,” or “victims of their environment”

But if they’re talented, more often than not they’ll land on their feet in the FCS.

Because in the end, it’s all Division I football.

  1. Drew:
    Good piece, Catlin. I think the FBS to FCS transfer rule in some part tells the true story of corporate college football (FBS). It's a semi-pro league with pretty much the same divisions as baseball farm leagues with the obvious, and from the Universities and NCAA's standpoint, envious position of not having to pay its players. It's a monopolistic rule that only applies to players - not coaches or AD's. It uses the cloak of a typical American undergraduate degree span (4 years) and a further cloak of amateurism as a public ruse that players who might transfer would create unequal teams, would not "academically progress" (most have 9th grade reading and writing abilities anyway), and the game would be purely about money, tv rights, and winning - in that order. Which, of course, is exactly what it's about. Outside of the Ivy League and an exception like Stanford, or a player here or there, the game has nothing to do with the classroom. Players are encouraged to enroll in meaningless curricula so that they can either pass, devote more of their time to film, conditioning, or captains' practice. (Witness how Barrett Jones at Alabama is played up as some tremendous scholar. I don't doubt the kid is bright, but that's not the intended purpose of the public relations exercise. That fog is supposed to overshadow the other 90% of the players who have no business graduating high school, let alone being in college.) Given those expectations where the game is the most important thing in these players' lives - from the time they are playing junior varsity - it's a wonder that there aren't more sociopaths than there are. The dilemma of the NCAA and FBS is to manage public expectations so that these problem players disappear (into tv oblivion).
OVC Ball
Compiling all OVC non-conference games

2016 Football Standings

OVC Overall
Jacksonville State 7-0 10-2
UT Martin 6-2 7-5
Tennessee Tech 5-3 5-6
Tennessee State 4-3 7-4
Eastern Illinois 4-4 6-5
Murray State 4-4 4-7
SEMO 3-5 3-8
Eastern Kentucky 2-6 3-8
Austin Peay 0-8 0-11

2016-17 Basketball Standings

OVC Overall


Belmont 15-1 23-7
Morehead State 10-6 14-16
Jacksonville State 9-7 20-15
Tennessee State 8-8 17-13
Tennessee Tech 8-8 12-20
Eastern Kentucky 5-11 12-19


UT Martin 10-6 22-13
SEMO 9-7 15-18
Murray State 8-8 16-17
Austin Peay 7-9 11-19
Eastern Illinois 6-10 14-15
SIUE 1-15 6-24