By Shaun Chornobroff
“The Times they are A-Changin,” is not only the title of Bob Dylan’s 1964 classic hit, but also a moniker that represents the current state of the NCAA.
The new trend of players transferring earlier and more often than ever, even if they have success with the team, has Rider men’s basketball Head Coach Kevin Baggett wary of what is to come.
Baggett’s concerns are even more justified with the NCAA likely passing a one-time transfer rule in the near future, meaning a player can transfer a single time, without having to sit out a season.
“Guys are going to be able to transfer this year if they pass that NCAA rule, where you don’t have to sit out one time… you know, would I like to have everyone back? Of course, but we’ll see how that works out in the end. You just never know,” Baggett said. “I didn’t think Dimencio [Vaughn] and Freddie Scott were going to leave, or I hoped they weren’t going to leave being that they had a lot of success here, but they decided to transfer up and play at the highest level. You’ll see a lot more of that going forward.”
Vaughn and Scott were both all-conference selections and veteran leaders on a Rider team that finished the regular season fourth in the MAAC last season, but they decided to depart Rider for the glitz and glamour of Power Five conferences as graduate transfers. A graduate transfer has already earned their degree and is eligible to transfer to a new school and play immediately without any type of waiver.
Graduate transfers have always been around, but in the 2010s it has become an option that players use with more consistency than ever.
“When I first got started [in coaching] 18 years ago, the only guys that really transferred were the ones that didn’t have a chance to play… Fifth-year transfers were unheard of until about seven years ago, it was something you never heard about. If a player got hurt, they redshirted that year and they just had an extra year at their respective school,” Rider men’s basketball Assistant Coach Marlon Guild said. “Now, you almost cringe a little bit when a guy gets an extra year because you never know what he’s thinking. You can do everything right by that young man, just pulling the cord in the classroom and in life, and they can just leave.”
“I think it just slowly crept up, I don’t think there was one case in particular,” Guild said of the popularity of the fifth-year transfer. “I think once guys knew they had options, you know, as you get older you get more information. As with anything you explore… and guys started doing it.”
With the aforementioned NCAA rule coming, it won’t just be graduate transfers — any player, from freshman to senior, will be able to leave a program one-time free of charge and immediately suit up.
“I think nationally, if you look around the country, you’re seeing it in football, you saw what Joe [Burrow] did at LSU. So, that’s the way of the world now, kids are transferring,” Baggett said. “There are over 900 kids in the transfer portal, it’s going to get worse, you’re going to see tons and tons of kids transfer once they pass that rule. We have to be ready to adjust and deal with it when it comes and when that’s passed.”
With a surge of transfers incoming there is an obvious question: Will this be good for players?
“I just think that it doesn’t teach kids how to problem solve, I mean every day’s not going to be great, sometimes you have to go through some struggles to come out on the other side of it,” Baggett said. “I dealt with this a little bit because I wanted to play early on, back in the day freshmen were not guaranteed anything, more often than not you didn’t play as much because you had seniors in front of you who had gone through the system,”
“I just think now you get guys that will go into a program and if they’re not playing they’re just going to transfer,” the 54-year-old head coach explained. “There’s no more being able to deal with things and learning from it… It’s just different, these kids don’t know how to solve anything, I learned to go through some things in order to get to where I am as a person. If you’re always going to run from problems, how do you problem solve?”
The NCAA is a constantly-moving and adjusting entity which landscape changes quicker than anybody can imagine. But for Baggett, Guild and the entire coaching staff of the men’s basketball team, the bond they create with their player never leaves, even if the athlete does.
“You’re disappointed, no doubt about it. But I think at the end of the day you want what’s best for the student-athlete,” Guild said. “We’ve had guys transfer from our program, were we disappointed? Sure, but that relationship will still be there because with us it has always been bigger than basketball.”
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