Losses, gains color opinions about graduate transfers

Updated: August 17, 2006, 2:16 PM ET
Associated Press

GAINESVILLE, Fla. -- Florida coach Urban Meyer spoke out against the NCAA's new graduate-transfer rule in May, calling it a loophole that needed to be -- and eventually would be -- closed.

He's more approving now, especially since cornerback Ryan Smith used the rule to leave Utah, enroll at Florida and give the Gators some much-needed depth in the secondary.

"I like it this year. I won't like it next year," Meyer said.

Cal coach Jeff Tedford and Vanderbilt coach Bobby Johnson might agree; they also accepted transfers under the new legislation. Others, though, have questioned and criticized the rule that allows athletes who graduate and have eligibility remaining to transfer without the penalty of sitting out a season.

"It's a bad rule because anything that encourages disloyalty is an awful thing," Duke coach Ted Roof said. "It's awful for college football, and it's the wrong message to send to young men -- that it's OK to do that sort of thing."

The Division I board of directors passed the legislation in April, giving accelerated student-athletes more options when it comes to pursuing graduate degrees and waiving the normal one-year waiting period if they decide to transfer. Although most coaches believe the rule won't have a widespread effect, they fear it will encourage programs to secretly recruit players who qualify to transfer.

It might have already happened. At least three prominent players have taken advantage of the change.

Smith started 12 games for Meyer and the Utes in 2004 and had 44 tackles and an interception. He started the first five games last year, but was replaced in the lineup midway through the season by the new coaching staff.

He left Utah after spring practice, saying he was physically and mentally exhausted from the game, but quickly began making plans to move to Gainesville.

His transfer somewhat coincided with the departure of cornerback Avery Atkins, who was released from his scholarship in June after he was accused of striking the mother of his 2-month-old child.

Smith said he considered transferring long before Atkins' troubles. But he also didn't choose Florida solely for its graduate program in educational leadership; he wanted to be reunited with Meyer and position coach Chuck Heater.

"It could possibly affect every school in the wrong way," Roof said. "I doubt that the intent of every rule is to enhance the quality of the game and the experience. But this is one I know a lot of people don't agree with."

Roof acknowledges being somewhat biased, having lost a two-year starter on the offensive line to Cal because of the legislation.

Guard Tyler Krieg graduated from Duke in May with a bachelor's degree in political science. He transferred to Cal to pursue a master's in education, but he based the move mostly on football.

"The lack of success at Duke had a lot to do with my decision," Krieg said. "It definitely was super frustrating going through four losing seasons at Duke. You put everything you have into it. Football is a large part of your college life."

Not surprisingly, Tedford supports the rule.

"If we had a fifth-year guy who wasn't completely happy, I would be OK with him transferring," Tedford said. "Of course, you would hope that a guy in his fifth year would have an investment in the program."

That didn't seem to be the case for Arizona quarterback Richard Kovalcheck. He started the first seven games for the Wildcats last season, completing 125 of 220 passes for 1,350 yards and 10 touchdowns.

But after losing his starting spot to freshman Willie Tuitama, Kovalcheck decided to transfer to Vanderbilt. Kovalcheck, a senior with 11 career starts, could be the player to replace first-round NFL draft pick Jay Cutler.

Unlike Roof at Duke, Arizona coach Mike Stoops backed the move.

"In Richard's case, he lost his job and had a chance to play somewhere else," Stoops said. "More power to him."

Other coaches might not feel the same way.

"That rule was a strange one when it came out," Boston College coach Tom O'Brien said. "I guess if you graduate and you're dissatisfied and you want to go play somewhere else, you can just pack up and go. It's beyond me."

Although Meyer took advantage of the legislation, he still believes NCAA members and conference representatives will vote to override the legislation in January.

Until then, though, the rule could help some teams and hurt others.

"I think everybody's susceptible and they should be worried because it can negatively affect anyone," Roof said. "The rule needs to be changed."

Copyright 2006 by The Associated Press