Bill Self against altering transfer rules to make players immediately eligible

Kansas head coach Bill Self lays into an official during the first half, Saturday, Dec. 16, 2017 at Pinnacle Bank Arena in Lincoln, Nebraska.

Kansas head coach Bill Self lays into an official during the first half, Saturday, Dec. 16, 2017 at Pinnacle Bank Arena in Lincoln, Nebraska. by Nick Krug

Kansas coach Bill Self is as familiar with the ins and outs of players transferring as anyone in college basketball.

But Self made it clear Thursday during his weekly press conference he isn’t in favor of any changes to NCAA transfer rules that would allow players to leave one university and become immediately eligible at their new school without sitting out for a year.

One such plan that originated within the Big 12, though, would enable players to do so in certain circumstances. A report from Dennis Dodd of CBS Sports this week detailed a proposal to reform NCAA transfer bylaws for those sports currently impacted — football, men’s and women’s basketball, baseball and hockey — and begin applying the rules to all Division I sports.

Suggested changes included allowing athletes to transfer and become eligible for competition without taking a redshirt season if their head coach were fired or left the school to take another job. That rule, however, would not allow players to follow their head coach to another school and become immediately eligible.

The proposal also called for players to be able to freely transfer and play immediately if their program received a postseason ban from the NCAA.

Self expressed his concerns about such rules possibly being put in place.

“I think any time when you don't have to sit out is a very, very, very bad rule. I personally think, for instance, and there has been talks that if a coach leaves, allow everybody to leave, but they can't go to the school with the coach. What about an assistant coach? … I guess he doesn't fall into that category. If he takes the players he recruited to go to another school, they'd have to sit,” Self began.

“The thing about it is, with our sport, people talk a lot about a lot of different things with our sport. Competitive balance is good. What you've done is you've just eliminated that with (reforming transfer bylaws).”

The 15th-year Kansas coach also wondered aloud how altered transfer rules would deal with a coach’s retirement.

“That whole team can leave before you have an opportunity to hire a new coach. I don't understand. And I don't understand how that fits into the academic component, where statistics show, unless you have a certain grade point average or whatnot, statistics show when you transfer, not usually all credits transfer, and it takes a little bit longer to graduate,” Self said.

“If we're looking at it from the big picture as to what's best for student-athletes as a whole over time, I would think graduation would be at the top of the list, and then I think competitive balance is right there underneath that,” he added.

According to Dodd’s report for CBS Sports, the proposal is just a preliminary one at this time. Some updated version of it, though, could be considered for legislation by the NCAA this June, as the Division I Transfer Working Group continues to examine possible changes to Division I transfer rules.

While the latest proposal, authored by faculty athletics representatives at Baylor and Iowa State, does not authorize players to leave one school and join another with immediate eligibility, Self has stated previously he is against any such “free agency” in major college athletics. KU’s coach reiterated his stance this week.

“I have strong beliefs on this, as do all coaches across America. The free agency aspect of it, where kids can go wherever they want to go, whenever they want to do it, we are all strongly, strongly, strongly against. It's not because we think it's negative with kids. It creates an environment where now you're actually recruiting players from other teams in handshake lines,” Self suggested. “You have something negative happen to your program, and you just look for a guy at a mid-major that averages 15 (points) a game, we'll throw some bait out there for him.”

Such a reality, Self explained, would be impossible to legislate, because of the ability of all parties to use back channels.

“Everybody’s got a contact that knows somebody,” he said, “and people can contact you.”

As explained in the drafted proposal by Jeremy Counseller, a law professor at Baylor, and Tim Day, professor of molecular pharmacology at Iowa State, the hope is that changes would help student-athletes.

The document shared with CBS Sports suggests players should be entitled to transfer from a university without getting permission of the institution and become immediately eligible for aid and practice upon enrolling at a different school.

KU’s active roster this season includes transfers Sam Cunliffe (Arizona State) and Malik Newman (Mississippi State). Three other players are redshirting this year after leaving other programs to join Self’s Jayhawks: Dedric and K.J. Lawson (Memphis) and Charlie Moore (Cal).

During Self’s 15 seasons at Kansas 14 players have transferred in from other Division I programs (either mid-college career or as graduates) while 16 have left KU for another D-I program. The most recent departures are Carlton Bragg Jr., who left for Arizona State and has since moved on again, to New Mexico, and Dwight Coleby, who joined the Jayhawks as a transfer from Ole Miss and left as a graduate to play at Western Kentucky.


Phil Leister

I do see some injustice in the fact that a coach can leave and not have to sit out a year, but rather go make millions of dollars at his new school right away. So why can't a player transfer and play right away as well?

But Bill brings up a good point about assistant coaches. A lot of time, the assistant is equally as responsible for recruiting a kid to a school. So if that assistant gets hired as a head coach somewhere else, could he just take that kid with him?

What about a guy who was an unheralded recruit who signs at Directional State U, and tears it up his by his sophomore year. Are people in that kid's circle getting contacted by boosters of a high major to get him to transfer? It would create a free agent frenzy.

So Bill does make some good points. But there's still some injustice in all of this somewhere that needs to be figured out.

1 year ago


Joe Black

Coaches are professionals and the players are students. And the students do have the right to go somewhere else after one year in a program. They can go down to a smaller division such as NAIA, they can declare for the NBA draft, they can attempt to go play professionally overseas, etc.
In most instances coaches aren't at the school for one or two years and then leave (as many player do). They have to build up a reputation and that takes time. The comparison of coaches to players is apples to oranges. It just doesn't make for a logical comparison and conclusion.

1 year ago


Dillon Davis

1) If a coach is fired or resigns or goes to another school, why should the kid have to sit out a year to go play somewhere else? Especially when the coach doesn't have to sit out a year? They may have signed the LOI to the school but they come to play for the coach too. If they want to leave I think they should have that right and not have to sit out because of a decision the AD or the coach made.

2) If a kid wants to follow (right away, not in a year or two) a coach or an assistant let them, but to keep the "competitive balance" make THOSE kids sit out a year. Gives them the right to follow who they want but because of the sitting out requirement if they do, the kid may just honor the commitment and stay at the school. Some will stay, some won't - balance.

3) If it's a high school kid and the season hasn't started yet and the coach leaves or is fired in the spring or summer before the season, the kid should be let out of the LOI and follow the coach if that's his desire. Which is something that a lot of schools currently allow right now if I'm not mistaken. For example, those kids at OU should have been allowed to leave last summer when Bob Stoops retired in June or whatever it was.

4) Maybe apply this limitation too: Grad students can continue to transfer without sitting out a year, even if it is to follow a coach. If an undergrad transfers, and they aren't following a coach or assistant directly to another school, let them go without sitting out. But if that player tries to transfer again before they have graduated then make them sit out a year on transfer #2. Unless there is a reason like the coach gets fired there too or leaves, etc. that justifies the player leaving. That way it's not like kids can hop from team to team like they're on one-year contracts.

5) For all college kids wanting to transfer, just make them wait until the end of the semester to leave, that way they are getting their education/credits and not just packing up in the middle of a semester and leaving the team high and dry. This may already be a rule I'm not sure, but it keeps education at the forefront and then you can apply restrictions to the kids based on the scenario (like if they are following or coach or just going to a completely different school).

6) Signing an LOI is like signing a contract, just like a coach does. To play/coach at that school. Coaches get fired or leave before the end of their contract and kids should be able to too.

1 year ago


Andy Godwin

Whether true or not, the student athlete signs to play at the "University of Whatever" for whomever is the coach. Yes, the majority of players are recruited to play for a given coach, but the basis of scholarships is the athlete is committing to a University. Free agency in college athletics would be the down fall of many programs. There are too many kids who would look to leave when things got tough or look to enhance their profile after using a lower level program as a form of a minor league. Yes, there are huge inequities in colleges athletics, e.g., salaries. Coaches can chose to leave for greener pastures or they can be fired and the student-athlete is stuck to either wait for a new coach and staff to be hired or they can transfer and sit out a year. Okay, although a stretch, can you imagine what coach would take a job, for example at KU, if a Beaty was fired and the majority of players decided to transfer to other programs that same year. The new coach wouldn't be able to even field a team and may never be able to maintain a full roster (you can only recruit so many players a year and if more transfer without consequence than can be recruited then the program is running a deficit in players). Yes, the likelihood of a mass exodus is far fetched, but a rule like this could in theory destroy a program overnight. Self is against this proposal for many reasons, including players who might transfer if they are not getting the minutes they expected early on. Self, like many coaches expect players to earn minutes and certain players might not contribute until year 3 or 4 in the program. If the NCAA removes any restrictions then more players will bail when things are not going as planned, especially in an age where more of the elite athletes are coddled from an early age. This resulting student-athlete revolving door could dramatically impact how coaches recruit and how colleges fund athletics. There still should be hardship waivers to protect the students from truly bad situations, but broad free agency in college athletics could be the beginning of the end.

1 year ago


Robert Brock

I don’t think that a student-athlete should be able to transfer and be instantly eligible under ANY circumstance, including/especially the goofy graduate transfer rule that seems fashionable.

As for coaches - they are not student-athletes. They are professional employees under contract...and subject to immediate termination.

1 year ago


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