Transfer Culture

It is rare when a problem of major college athletics doesn’t eventually become a pollutant of high school athletics. A current issue demonstrates the point.

In 2015, NCAA research reported that about 40 percent of Division I men’s basketball players who had entered an NCAA institution directly from high school as freshmen had departed that institution by the end of their sophomore year.

Approximately 44 percent of the transfers were to other Division I programs, 33 percent to Division II programs, one percent to Division III, and 23 percent to non-NCAA colleges. Nearly 90 percent of all transfers said they changed schools for athletic reasons.

At the 2016 Men’s Final Four, NCAA President Mark Emmert stated that the issue of transfers is one of the most hotly debated in NCAA men’s basketball and football.

The culture that contributes to this is created in youth programs, starting even before students reach high school. There are no rules that govern players’ change from one non-school team to another, year after year. Players, parents and handlers talk with each other about where players can find the coach or team that will give them the best shot for a college scholarship or to fulfill their dreams of a professional career; and they will drive any distance from their homes to connect with that non-school team or coach.

This culture has infected high school sports, as witnessed by what appears to be increasing numbers of students who change schools for reasons more related to their non-school contacts and their college dreams than their high school experience, either athletic or academic.

These pressures will only increase under the current model of major college sports that treats superior athletes as if they were superior human beings and lavishes publicity and perks upon them. Until the major college sports experience is disincentivised, those colleges will have transfer troubles. And so will we.


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About the Author

Jack Roberts

Jack Roberts has been at the helm of the MHSAA as its Executive Director since 1986, implementing programs and overseeing tournament administration and regulations for the Association which boasts 1,500 member schools, 10,000 registered officials and 13,000 head coaches.

During the last 45 years, Roberts has spoken to educator and athletic groups, business leaders and civic groups in almost every state and five Canadian provinces. He is one of the nation's most articulate advocates for educational athletics.

Roberts has served on the board of directors of the National Association of Sports Officials (NASO), is in his second term on the board of the National Federation of State High School Associations, and is the first chairman of the NFHS Network board of directors. He has been board president for the Refugee Development Center for nine years, and is a past-chair of the board of directors of the Michigan Society of Association Executives. He is chair of the board of trustees for the Capital Region Community Foundation for 2018.

He is a 1970 graduate of Dartmouth College, where he played defensive safety for the Ivy League's winningest football team during that span, and he sang in Dartmouth's close harmony vocal group.

His wife, Peggy, has retired from a 30-year career in social services, and is serving as president of the board of the Fenner Nature Conservancy in Lansing.