Transfer 'epidemic' discussed by Big Ten coaches at meetings

ROSEMONT, Ill. -- During the Big Ten's annual spring meetings here the past two days, men's basketball coaches discussed how they could curb the onslaught of transfers in the sport -- something Michigan State's Tom Izzo described as "an epidemic."

While no course of action was decided upon, coaches and administrators generally agreed that the transfer situation has spiraled out of control, especially with graduate transfers who are immediately eligible at their new schools.

"It's a vicious cycle. Where we're headed is ultimately free agency, and that's not a good thing." Northwestern coach Chris Collins

"It's a vicious cycle," Northwestern coach Chris Collins said. "Where we're headed is ultimately free agency, and that's not a good thing."

ESPN's current transfer list is swelling toward 1,000 players seeking new schools, and it includes dozens of graduate transfers.

Collins says NCAA data shows that fewer than 25 percent of graduate transfers go on to finish their master's degrees, which is ostensibly why the rule was first put into place.

Nebraska coach Tim Miles said that Big Ten coaches would support a rule requiring that all transfers, including those who have graduated and those who move to be closer to family, must sit out a season. In such family hardship cases, Miles said, players should "take a year off and spend time" with their ailing relatives. Allowing players to leave and play right away "doesn't foster or nurture accountability and other things that go with growing up," Miles said. "It can't be a free-for-all."

Big Ten coaches watched the video of Tim Floyd's press conference last week in which the UTEP coach railed against the transfer issue. While coaches here said they don't want to take away players' rights, they do think something should be done to stem the tide of player movement.

"That's going to keep breaking down the fabric of trust, what you're trying to build and teach people how to work through things," Indiana coach Tom Crean said. "They've got to understand, there's a big difference between jumping AAU teams in the middle of July. In so many cases, that's how people are brought up. 'I can change high school. Without penalty, I can change AAU teams by the week.'"

Big Ten coaches have happily accepted transfers on their teams. Izzo's Spartans had two former transfers play major roles last season in Eron Harris and Bryn Forbes, the latter of whom received a waiver to be immediately eligible from Cleveland State in 2014-15. Max Bielfeldt was named the Big Ten's Sixth Man of the Year for Crean's Hoosiers last season after transferring as a graduate student from Michigan.

The Wolverines have seen two players graduate and transfer within the conference in the past two seasons, with guard Spike Albrecht moving to Purdue this spring. First-year Michigan athletic director Warde Manuel said that he would like to see fewer undergraduates transfer. But Manuel said his personal belief is that "kids who earned their degree have earned the right to transfer."

Manuel's position illustrates how difficult it is to find a unified solution to the transfer situation.

"It's something we have to continue to debate and discuss long term and really try to make the best decision for everybody," Manuel said.