Editor’s Note: We are very aware that some of the things mentioned in this column happen at programs all across the country. This piece is simply using two ACC examples to illustrate a larger point.
Cameron Johnson graduated from the University of Pittsburgh. He has sought to continue his education and athletic career at another institution.
This has generally been a clearcut situation in college sports thanks to rules that allow student-athletes to transfer and continue playing sports while also pursuing a postgraduate degree.
To this point for Cameron Johnson, that hasn’t been the case.
Pittsburgh initially prevented him from transferring or even contacting any ACC schools. That’s not entirely unusual for undergraduate transfers who have to sit out a year if they transfer within the ACC.
What makes this bizarre is that Johnson has already graduated. He completed his degree in three years at Pitt which is something to be lauded by everyone.
In May, Johnson sought a hearing on the matter from an outside faculty committee. The committee acted within days to grant him the freedom to contact other ACC schools. The committee also said he would have to, ““serve a year of residence prior to being eligible for competition, per NCAA legislation.”
Here is that letter from Cameron Johnson, in which he makes his case for a full release from University of Pittsburgh: pic.twitter.com/5tZSgA2aBC
— Andrew Carter (@_andrewcarter) June 6, 2017
As Johnson lays out quite eloquently in his open letter above, The NCAA has said that “year of residence” doesn’t apply do graduate transfers.
Still, Pittsburgh refuses to release Johnson to allow him to play at another school in the ACC. He committed to North Carolina this week.
The reasons why the Pittsburgh athletics department and coach Kevin Stallings are persisting on this matter defy basic logic and reason. To be perfectly blunt, North Carolina is going to beat Pitt with or without Cameron Johnson. And if it’s some matter of principle on which the Panther program is attempting to stand, they’ve chosen the wrong case.
While this particular situation is unprecedented, it speaks to a larger inequity in the balance of power in intercollegiate athletics.
Take the recent situation with Florida State’s basketball program. After a lengthy recruitment, 4-star talent M.J. Walker announced his commitment to play for Leonard Hamilton’s Seminoles.
It was a huge get for the program, the only problem was that they lacked any available scholarships. This is something that happens constantly at schools across the nation. Coaches load up on as much talent as possible, then figure out the numbers later.
It’s true across all sports and in this situation as with many others, it meant someone had to go.
3-star prospect Bryan Trimble was the guy in this case. To be fair, he asked to be released from his letter of intent, but what choice did he have? Despite being one of the first recruits to commit to FSU this year, Trimble was recruited over. He saw the writing on the wall and realized that his prospects to succeed with the program he had selected and signed with were no longer the same.
While these are two very different situations, they’re both unsettling. As Cameron Johnson pointed out in his letter, it’s fundamentally hypocritical for coaches and administrators to be allowed to move freely to more advantageous situations while players are stuck where they are.
Whether it’s recruiting over someone or preventing a transfer, neither do any good for the players in question.
There are those who would wax on about ‘commitment’ and ‘honor’ as important things for these players to learn, which is true, but it’s a two-way street.
When a kid chooses an institution and athletic program, they do indeed make a commitment to them. However, the schools, programs, and staffs all make a commitment to that athlete as well. They’re saying they will look out for that student-athlete and they will always have their best interests in mind when making decisions about them.
Preventing transfers and pushing players out to make room for ‘better’ talent doesn’t strike me as the kind of activity that says, “we’ve got your back.”
Ultimately, this is just one of a million things prospective student-athletes have to take into account when choosing where to continue their careers. It’s safe to say some programs are more appealing than others.