How Proposed Changes to Transfer Rules Might Affect Arizona Basketball

NEW YORK, NY - NOVEMBER 15: Frank Mason III /

A proposal being considered by the NCAA Division I Transfer Working Group seeks to give transfers immediate eligibility.  We take a look at what that might mean for Arizona Basketball.

In a recent article, Andrew Slater of 247 Sports broke the news that a huge change may be coming to Division I College Basketball transfer rules.  And change is definitely needed.  College basketball transfer guidelines are notoriously difficult to follow.  Slater reports that a working group tasked with defining the new rules have come up with two simple options.

In the first existing rule, all Division I basketball transfers must sit out a year before becoming eligible to compete for their new schools.  After sitting a year, the player becomes eligible, no strings attached.  This proposal may sound familiar.  Option two is very similar to current transfer rules but is greatly simplified and cuts down on red tape.  According to Slater’s sources, this option is the least likely of the two.

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The second proposal would grant immediate eligibility to all Division I transfers, provided that the transferring athlete meets GPA requirements. Slater’s sources indicate that this option is more likely than the first to be enacted.

Slater reports that April 2018 is the deadline for a vote on the proposal. Who will be doing the voting is unclear.  If a proposal should pass, it may come into effect as early as the 2018 – 2019 season.

The Current Transfer Landscape

The number of transfers in Division I men’s basketball has gone up drastically in recent years. According to Verbal Commits’ D1 Transfer List, the number of transfers has gone up on average 8% per year for the last five years.  Between 2012 (577 transfers) and 2017 (847 transfers), there has been a stunning 47% increase in the number of transfers per year.

TUCSON, AZ – FEBRUARY 19: T.J. McConnell
TUCSON, AZ – FEBRUARY 19: T.J. McConnell /

The reasons for transfers are endless.  We recommend reading this article by Zack Osterman and Kyle Neddenriep in the Indy Star.  The article is a few years old, but it dives deep into why players decide a change of scenery is best for them.

The most obvious reason a player might leave is to seek more playing time at a school whose depth chart isn’t quite so crowded. Another common reason is that a player feels he has outgrown his current school. That logic has a special place in the heart of Wildcats fans.  T.J. McConnell famously said, “I want to play at a higher level. I want to go to a school where I can compete for a national championship.”

How a Rule Change Might Affect Arizona

In his time at Arizona, Sean Miller has successfully brought in high-level transfer players. Under the current transfer rules, Miller has gained more players than he’s lost.  Have a look at the results of the last few years of scholarship player transfers at Arizona:

2012 – In: Mark Lyons, T.J. McConnell;  Out: Josiah Turner

2013 – In: Zach Peters;  Out: Angelo Chol

2014 – In: Kadeem Allen, Ryan Anderson;  Out: none

2015 – In: Mark Tollefsen;  Out: Craig Victor

2016 – In: Talbott Denny, Dylan Smith;  Out: Elliott Pitts, Justin Simon

2017 – In: Chase Jeter;  Out: none

The players that have transferred in have been significant contributors to the program. Who could forget Mark Lyons impossibly-high-off-the-glass layup to beat Florida in 2013? T.J. McConnell and Kadeem Allen were both two-year starters at Arizona and are now on NBA rosters.  And come the 2018-2019 season, Arizona fans expect big things from Chase Jeter, a Duke transfer with incredible potential.

Arizona Wildcats Basketball
Arizona Wildcats Basketball /

Arizona Wildcats Basketball

While it’s unfortunate to have any player transfer out of the program, Arizona has been lucky to lose only minor role players under Miller.  The biggest loss was probably Josiah Turner who transferred to SMU in 2012.  His departure effectively left Arizona without a starting point guard until Mark Lyons announced he would be coming in as a grad transfer. All told, Arizona is in the black where transfers are concerned.

Given the player friendly nature of the proposed new rules, it’s likely that Arizona would lose players at a faster rate.  Because Miller recruits at such a high level, he will consistently bring in freshman talent that is impossible to bring off the bench.  Would Chance Comanche have stuck around for his Sophomore year to play behind Lauri Markkanen if he knew he could transfer and start immediately for another team?

Veteran players who have been with the program for more than a year will be passed up in favor of the freshman phenom. It’s a model that works. John Calipari has built Kentucky’s entire program on that principle. What’s to stop veteran players from finding playing time elsewhere? It’s impossible to say if the rate of incoming transfers could keep pace with the outgoing.

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For those reasons, Arizona fans should be skeptical of any rules changes.  As the adage says, “If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.”  However, there is an appetite for transfer rule reform in college basketball, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see something happen. Wildcat fans should be confident that Sean Miller would undoubtedly take advantage of any new rules and position the program to succeed.