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SIU's men's basketball team may have to fight the NCAA as much as its own team to keep its players if a working group proposes transfers can be eligible right away.

Reports from and Monday said, citing anonymous sources, the NCAA may propose allowing student-athletes that transfer to be eligible to play right away at their new schools if they meet a yet-to-be-determined academic standard. The NCAA's transfer working group, a 19-person conglomerate of administrators and student-athletes chaired by South Dakota State athletic director Justin Sell, was formed in April to address transfer issues.

Allowing anyone to transfer wherever they want, regardless of the conditions, whenever they want, is not a great idea for the NCAA's academic mission or college basketball. Say what you want about the NCAA, they are beginning to allocate financial resources toward programs that meet certain academic requirements. They want to graduate students with four-year degrees. College basketball already lacks the eyes of America until February, March and April because it's swallowed up by football and the early start of the NBA and NHL.

Division I coaches, even successful ones, already look over their shoulders every day to re-recruit their own players. This could only make it worse, because, honestly, if Arizona asked Missouri State forward Alize Johnson last season if he wanted to play for them this year, don't you think he would have considered it? I'm not saying he would have left, but he would have had to consider it.

You want to believe kids go to schools for the right reasons. To learn under a certain coach they connected with. To play against the best players they can. To play where fan bases will support them. To get a degree at an academic institution that features something they want to study. High-majors and Power Five conference programs already thumb through different mid-majors' media guides and websites looking for potential fifth-year transfers. Some of them have assistant coaches whose jobs include looking for potential impact additions.

"If the media doesn't take hold of this right now, you can shut mid-major basketball, and low-major basketball down," SIU coach Barry Hinson said on Monday's Missouri Valley Conference coaches teleconference. "It's over."

I don't always agree with Hinson, but I agree with his statement over this. If the NCAA passes such a deal, mid-majors would lose standout guys like SIU forward Thik Bol and Johnson every season. They will lose them at the worst times, and never be able to build around them.

The NCAA needs to change the graduate transfer rule, which is clearly not used as it was intended, to penalize players that don't finish the graduate degrees they say they're pursuing when they jump ship. The NCAA needs to also get rid of Division I programs restricting where student-athletes that choose to transfer, and choose to sit out a season, from going where they want. Coaches can leave whenever they want, with financial consequences, even if it's within the same conference. Players should be able to transfer to schools within the same conference if they're willing to pay the price, whether that's exposure, negative publicity, or simply time.

An open season in a climate that features close to 500 Division I players right now would be disastrous.

TODD HEFFERMAN covers SIU athletics for The Southern Illinoisan. Contact him at, 618-351-5087 or on Twitter at @THefferman.


Sports reporter

Todd Hefferman has covered SIU athletics since 2008. A University of Iowa grad, he is a member of the U.S. Basketball Writers Association and a Heisman Trophy voter.

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