Sign of the Times: Transfer Rules Trump Loyalty (June 2021)

No honor among thieves? These days, you could add politicians and college coaches to the dubious list.
 
Once the NCAA allowed athletes to move from one school to another, without penalty, the so-called “transfer portal” changed the very core of college athletics. Forget loyalty and commitment. 
 
An athlete signs with one university. Balloons, hugs, gimme caps and snapshots of proud parents. Then, after using training facilities and coaching to grow and develop at School A, he/she is free to leave for any school, for any reason. Pure and simple, yes?
 
No.
 
As a dipped and vaccinated semi-libertarian, I believe in the freedom of choice. College athletes should not be sharecroppers in a $12.4 billion industry (source: moneynation.com) built on the cheap labor of their sweaty backs. But when a coach at School B expresses interest — wink — in a kid at School A, ramifications run deep. And UTEP is not immune.

First-year Miners basketball coach Joe Golding — like all coaches, especially those trying to establish stability — will be challenged by the NCAA’s new liberal transfer rules. From this sideline shot when Golding was at Abilene Christian, here is the animation UTEP fans can expect. 

Recent case: Bryson Williams, a 6-8 grad transfer via Fresno State. As UTEP’s top scorer last season, Williams was, past tense, a power forward that first-year Miners coach Joe Golding hoped would solidify his new program.
 
Instead, after being pursued by a number of high-profile schools, Williams left UTEP, for Texas Tech. Here’s where the lemony twist will pucker your cheeks. 
 
Golding was a dribbler at Abilene Christian from 1994-1998 when Chris Beard was an ACU assistant coach. Last spring, when Shaka Smart left Texas for Marquette, Beard quickly filled the vacancy in Austin. In turn, Rodney Terry left UTEP to work for Beard, his departure met with a collective yawn in El Paso.  
 
Among Miners fans there were no self-flagellations on Mesa Street, no social distancing at the campus wailing wall. UTEP basketball had gone stale under Rodney Terry. Coaches move. It’s an industry; changing zip codes is part of the business. 
 
But if you’re like me, the new free agency among athletes leaves me flat. Are the team rosters now printed in disappearing ink? 
 
There used to be an unwritten code in the coaching industry against poaching off another man (or woman’s) roster. Ha. That went the way of Motown music. 
 
These days, all coaches have a license to steal. No closed season. UTEP may get transfers from the likes of Angelo State and Houston Baptist. Meanwhile, Power 5 schools like Baylor and Oklahoma will plunder Group of 5 schools like UTEP and New Mexico. 
 
Bryson Williams is not to be ridiculed, nor applauded. When America’s divorce rate is 44.6 per cent (source: thehivelaw.com) Williams is merely a sign of our times. Get used to liquid rosters. Or, start following the professional golf — no coaches, no night games and no NCAA.

exas Tech-bound Bryson Williams (photo by Briana Sanchez, El Paso Times) 

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