Transfer Culture

March 14, 2017

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.

Cheering for Sportsmanship

July 31, 2018

(This blog first appeared on on January 8, 2013.)

I try to start each new school year at the Michigan Interscholastic Press Association summer camp at Michigan State University. I talk briefly about who the MHSAA is and what it does; and then two or three dozen high school newspaper editors and writers ask me questions; and in doing so, they give me clues to what’s going on in our schools and what’s important to our students.

Several years ago, when I opened the session to questions, one young man asked: “Mr. Roberts, what’s your job?” I paused, and then said, “I guess I’m the head cheerleader for high school sports in Michigan.”

So then this precocious student asked: “Okay, what do you cheer for?”  With a briefer pause, this is some of what I said:

  • I cheer for sportsmanship that’s not merely good, but great.

  • I cheer for sportsmanship, not gamesmanship.

  • I cheer for playing by the rules, both the letter and the spirit.

  • I cheer for maximum effort to try to win each and every contest.

  • I don’t cheer for winning at any cost; I do cheer for learning at every opportunity.

  • I cheer for losing with grace and for winning with even greater grace, with humility and modesty.

  • I cheer for the lessons of victory and the even greater lessons of defeat.