Is There Good Left in College Basketball?

Andy Lyons

Every offseason there seems to be debate over the deterioration of college basketball and certain epidemic that may plague the game. I simply ask, is there good left in college basketball?

Transfers have been a hot topic in college basketball over the past few years. As soon as "One Shining Moment" ends every April it seems as if the flood gates open for hundreds of transfers around the college basketball landscape.

Marc Isenberg had an interesting piece today calling the debate around college transfers as a "fake epidemic":

A 10 percent spike is an epidemic? So, what explains this less-than-drastic increase? Perhaps these young men are looking for better situations, as if there’s something wrong with that. Maybe some are impatient. Or maybe coaches are encouraging underperforming players to give up their scholarships and transfer. Or perhaps the NCAA membership is relaxing its draconian barriers to transferring by granting more waivers.

Isenberg further goes on to highlight the troubles of coaching changes and how that has fostered this new culture:

And what about turnover among college basketball coaches? There are currently 340 NCAA Division Men’s basketball teams. This past offseason, there were 42 college basketball coaching changes. Last year, there were 50 coaching changes. In other words, the “transfer rate” for coaches the last two years is 12.3% and 14.7%, respectively. Some were fired, some assistants moved up, but many were “poached” by bigger programs…just like players. The typical narrative when a popular coach takes a better job: We’re sorry he’s leaving, but we don’t begrudge him for taking care of his family. College players just aren’t as effective at this PR game.

Do I think there is an epidemic in college basketball? No. Do I think we may be headed for a very slippery slope? Yes. The NCAA certainly does plenty of questionable things and there is no doubt that their rule book is outdated, but I think on the matter of transfers that this is not the case. Why? Because of college basketball coaches and the trickle down effect to recruiting "analysts" and people on the AAU level.

I think the glorification of recruits at the high level, social media, and the sliminess of AAU culture has slowly deteriorated our games. I've seen AAU coaches first hand sell a recruit on going to a particular school on the basis of location and the party "scene".

If you follow college basketball on Twitter then you have no doubt seen some sort of recruiting "analyst" publicly try to shop a player who is now at a university. Messages like "Coaches DM about a transfer big man ready to change your program!". Just the other day I saw one of these individuals shopping a recently graduated incoming freshman who is committed to my alma mater. The only problem was the player had no idea where it was coming from and had no intentions of decommitting from a school where he was currently residing and TAKING CLASSES.

I've even seen this on the international side recently where overseas "handlers" encouraged a player to transfer away from a mid-major university to a BCS level school to possibly up the amount of money he can sign for overseas in the next couple of years. The situation got even more slimy when rumors surfaced that the players former college head coach (who resigned this year) would possibly be joining the BCS school's staff.

I see glimpses of good now and then, good that you hope is sincere:

The greatest glimpse comes every March when you see a school like Florida Gulf Coast, Butler, VCU, Davidson, Wichita State, and others capture the imagination of a nation. They are teams who, for the most, part have done it the right way. They built a program, persevered, and took pride in the word "team".

But even as those programs rise up and make Mid-Major fans proud, you start to see the good drift away slowly year by year. Butler is now in the Big East and their coach who was cornerstone and figurehead of Mid-Major hoops is now the head coach of the Boston Celtics. Andy Enfield bolted FGCU at his first opportunity, as so many other Mid-Major "legends" have done.

I'm not denying these moves and recognize the nature of the business of college basketball and coaching in general, but part of the reason I am a Mid-Major fan is because I feel there is still some sense of altruism still lingering in our sport. There is still something pure in our game at many programs around the country and that's what makes our game great.

Social media, AAU, the free agent nature of coaches and players, and much more has diminished the product of our game in some sense. I don't know where the end game is or if there ever is one. Loyalty and the importance of the name on the front of your jersey seems to be a notion that is shrinking, but there certainly remains some good in college basketball and I think that it's mostly on this level of play.

I hope there are plenty of fans out there who think the same way. Fans have an emotional tie to their universities and when the players and coaches leave it can often feel like your heart is being ripped out. If you are a fan of a team that happens to "make it" like a VCU or Butler, I ask that you remember where you came from and not get lost in the quagmire that has become big time college basketball.

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