New rule is puzzling

Tennessee basketball player Dane Bradshaw is not planning to transfer. But Bradshaw, who recently completed his bachelor's degree in three years, could play for another Div. 1 program next winter without sitting out a year, thanks to legislation passed last month by the NCAA.

NCAA Proposal 2005-54 allows an athlete who has his/her undergraduate degree AND eligibility remaining to transfer and play while attending graduate school without sitting out a year. This apparently applies to guys like Bradshaw who complete a degree in three years and to guys who redshirt and get a fifth year of eligibility.

In explaining the new legislation, the NCAA says athletes "should be permitted to choose a graduate school that meets both his or her academic and athletic interests." The idea is sound in theory. It could be a disaster in practice.

Here's why: An elite program needing immediate help at quarterback is free to lure a fifth-year senior QB away from a school that has spent four years educating his mind and fine-tuning his football skills. The same could happen to a school with a marquee running back. Or a shut-down cornerback. Or a flashy point guard.

Had this legislation been in effect previously, Peyton Manning (who graduated in three years) could've played his senior year at a school other than UT. So could linebacker Kevin Burnett and several other Vol gridders who were working on graduate degrees while playing their final season of eligibility.

The potential for abuse of this rule is obvious. If coaches are tempted to cheat to get a ballyhooed freshman who has no college experience, imagine how tempted they'd be to cheat to secure the services of a fifth-year senior who clearly can step in and provide immediate help.

Even if no illegal inducements are involved, the bottom line is this: Team A wins the national championship because of a guy who only represented the program for one year. Team B loses a guy it nurtured for four years without getting the benefit of his final season.

A story by Dennis Dodd on quotes Grant Teaff, executive director of the American Football Coaches Association , as saying: "There is an organizing effort to overturn this. This is legislation that is not a good fit. It is of great concern."

To override Proposal 2005-54, however, at least 30 Div. 1 presidents must first ask the NCAA in writing by June 26. Then 100 or more members of the NCAA Board of Directors must vote in favor of an override. Finally, the issue would go before the NCAA Convention next January.

Don't be surprised if some school manages to exploit the new legislation between now and then.

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