Like UGA, the Gamecocks have a graduate transfer (Isaiah Johnson) starting for them as well. After watching the dumpster fire that was our defense last year, I (like all Gamecock fans) was thrilled to see Johnson come onto the scene. Whether or not he will make a difference remains an open question. After watching Lambert torch our secondary, of which Johnson is supposed to be an integral part, I’m not terribly impressed.
No, this post is not sour grapes, as I was squarely in the Everett Golson to USC camp. Instead it’s about the continued erosion of the traditional “student athlete” model in intercollegiate athletics. The fact of the matter is that major college football (and basketball) players are now free agents. As long as they graduate and meet certain transfer requirements, any player can leave one school and play at another school the next year while dodging the traditional transfer penalty of one year on the sidelines.
And why is the graduate transfer phenomenon a thing? Money, that’s why. Just like all the other methods used to get talented athletes on the field, universities around the country have bought into yet another way of getting an enhanced product that can be packaged as “college” ball. Don’t misunderstand me. I’m all for great players and competition. I’m just sick and tired of all the hypocrisy perpetuated by the NCAA and the universities. Graduate students from UVA, Kansas, or NC State are no more “students” of the new college they play for than the Kentucky basketball freshman who go to just enough classes in the fall semester so they can remain eligible in the spring, or the UNC athletes who were enrolled in all those “paper classes” for the last 20 years.
The graduate transfer rule is simply the latest example of a way to get guys on the field who can help your team win, and win fast. Everybody is doing it. Saturday night I watched an ex-FSU quarterback throw a TD pass to an ex-Oregon St. wide receiver. Both are now wearing Alabama uniforms. I’m pretty sure those guys aren’t at Bama for some fascinating new graduate program.
And let’s face the honest truth, the vast majority of fans couldn’t care less whether or not the star QB or point guard hangs out at the student union, attends classes, or graduates. They just want the wins and the excitement that comes from it all. I get it.
I’m just ready for everyone to drop the bs and fancy eligibility rules and call college football and basketball what it is – a club system that effectively serves as a minor league. Sure, there are the athletes who are academically gifted and would be in college anyway. Some of the graduate transfers likely fall into this category. Rationales such as these only serve to muddy the truth: college athletics (again, I’m talking about D1 football and basketball here) aren’t about college, and haven’t been for quite some time. The fact that the NCAA and the university presidents continue to hold onto the “collegiate athletics” fiction while billions of dollars are made (and spent on coaches and facilities) is ridiculous, and insults the intelligence of the fan bases, which are composed at least partly of alumni who actually went to college for college.
Do I expect this post to change anything? Not a chance. Do I feel better after writing it? Not really. USC’s “student athletes” still got their butts royally kicked by UGA’s “student athletes” and I’m still ticked off about it.