Last year more than 700 men’s college basketball players transferred schools, according to ESPN.
This season there are more than 600 and counting.
The very nature of recruiting is trying to find the best fit. Having the patience to find that best fit comes in short supply for 18- and 19-year-old athletes.
BYU has benefited from transfers over the past several years, including Matt Carlino (UCLA), Chase Fischer (Wake Forest) and Kyle Davis (Utah State). Elijah Bryant, the Colonial Athletic Conference Rookie of the Year at Elon University in 2014-15, sat out last season and is expected to make an impact for the Cougars in the coming year.
But one thing BYU hasn’t had under Rose’s direction is a graduate transfer.
“We’re not a program that does that,” BYU coach Dave Rose said. “Our program will be built on high school freshmen and it’s been that way forever. A lot of it is that it’s tough to get into graduate school. Every grad school has their requirements.”
Athletes who have received their bachelor’s degree and have a year of eligibility remaining may transfer without penalty and play immediately.
“The graduate transfer rule has changed everything,” Rose said. “If you get a normal transfer now, the rules tell you to sit him out. So you sit him out and he takes 24 credits, which gets him that much closer to graduation. That fifth year, now it’s basically free agency. That guy can go wherever he wants.”
Initially intended as a reward for a hard-working student-athlete, the graduate transfer rule is being used more and more as an opportunity for bigger schools to swoop in and take top athletes from smaller schools.
“That’s the part of this thing that’s really a little bit toxic,” Rose said. “We’ve talked about making every transfer have to sit a year, but I don’t know if that will ever happen. The free agency market in collegiate sports is real. If you have 600 transfers and 400 of them are undergrads, then 400 of those guys in theory can become free agents their senior year.”
Data compiled by the NCAA indicates graduate transfers are more likely to move up than move down in competition, making the athlete basically a “gun-for-hire” for a Power 5 Conference team.
NCAA statistics also show only around 30 percent of graduate transfers in college basketball actually earn graduate degrees and the organization is considering actions to hold schools more accountable for a graduate transfer's academic progress.
Rose isn’t alone in his concerns.
"I would tell you this, the one-and-done from high school is not the story of college basketball," Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski said prior to his team’s Sweet 16 appearance in March. "The one-and-done with the fifth-year graduate player is what is the main story for college basketball. There are many, many more of those. And that's hurt a lot of our mid-major programs when these kids leave and go.”
On ESPN’s most recent list of transfers, more than 100 are of the graduate variety.
Rose has two scholarships available since Jordan Chatman opted to transfer this week. He needs some guard depth and that could come from transfers. As far as the transfer game is concerned, he said he doesn’t see things much differently than he did 10 years ago.
“Kids were impatient then and they are impatient now,” Rose said. “I’m going to tell you, in 90 percent of those situations, they will feel different at the same school after their sophomore year. You just do. That’s the experience. Most of them leave after their freshman year, but if they gave it another chance and stayed their sophomore year, then it would work and this thing would slow down.”
But Rose said a high volume of transfers will continue because it’s just more acceptable for athletes to jump ship after their freshman season.
"I feel like that’s the part of it that’s really changed,” he said. “It seems that everybody is OK with them making the leap and making a change after that first year. People will call it an epidemic or whatever, but transferring is just a mainstream part of recruiting.”