Why NCAA can't be trusted--and other thoughts

Not a good sign for the NCAA's new Division I man coming in with his first big concern . . . and USC back on top at the NFL Draft.

Of course you can't trust the NCAA to get it right. You know it. We know it. USC people everywhere understand that better than anyone.

But it's not the USC case that makes this point so clear this week. What we're talking about today has nothing specifically to do with USC. Just another example of how the NCAA can't possibly be trusted to get it right because the NCAA just doesn't get it.

Here's our most recent example: The NCAA will have a new vice-president starting this summer for Division I governance, Kevin Lennon, and this week, the first time he talks about his new job and the challenges facing him -- and the NCAA, he gets it completely wrong. And we probably should not be surprised.

His big issue, the Harvard grad says after hearing from many of the 345 Division I schools across the country, is -- to use the AP quote -- "the surging number of students switching schools."

Does Kevin ask why so many student-athletes are transferring? Or does he wonder if that might not be a good thing as they find their way from a school that might not be so good for them to one that fits them better? He does not.

Does he ask why so many athletes' first school choices aren't working out? Or why 604 Division I basketball players in 2014 chose to transfer, a jump from the 455 who did so in 2013?

Not that we can tell. Here's what Lennon seems focused on: How do we stop these athletes from doing what's best for them.

It's the NCAA way. So Kevin is batting around some of the ideas the good old boys are proposing to cure this ill of athletes choosing freedom. One solution: Rework the rule that allows athletes who earn their undergrad degree from transferring and playing immediately.

Yep, that kind of individual freedom unnerves the folks who make the calls for the NCAA.

"If you're transferring to be in a graduate program, the NCAA wants you to be working in earnest toward that degree rather than just using up your last year of eligibility," Lennon said.

Sure, it sounded like a good idea at the time, rewarding athletes who work hard and get their degrees, sometimes in three years, to allow them the freedom for a second bite of the apple with no penalty -- you know, like their coaches can do when they want to leave for a better situation.

And like a Byron Wesley, who got a shot as a fourth-year guy and grad student at Gonzaga after three seasons of going to class, getting his degree and then getting out of Dodge and away from a USC basketball program in disarray.

Or like incoming tight end Taylor McNamara, the San Diego product who earned his degree in three years at Oklahoma and has decided he'll be a better fit at USC, where he'll have two years of eligibility as a grad student and be able to play right away this summer when he gets here.

Lennon says there can be problems here: "You have one line of thinking that says when a student has earned their undergraduate degree they've earned the right to go wherever they want without any kind of NCAA restrictions."

But in Lee Corso's words, "Not so fast, my friend." Lennon continues: "I think, unfortunately, what the data has shown is that people are transferring and they are not completing their graduate degrees because the vast majority of those degrees are two years."

So you get where this is going. Guess who agrees with him? You got it, Kentucky's John Calipari, godfather of the one and done. "You need two years in grad school anyway, so it makes sense," Calipari said of restricting grad student transfers. Do that and it would "cut this thing by two-thirds."

Not that any of this is actually liable to impact Calipari. When was the last player of his who finished up in his sixth year as a college student for Coach Cal?

But that is the problem, we're told. Too much freedom. Right now, an amazing 40 percent of Division I basketball players are transferring after their second year in school, as USC knows only too well.

So what does the NCAA do here: It "considers options to stem the tidal wave of transfers among undergrads," the AP tells us after interviewing Lennon this week, "but nothing has worked."

"No one is happy with the transfer rate, particularly in the sport of men's basketball," Lennon told the AP. "When 40 percent of your students are leaving after their second year, that's a signal something's wrong."

But rather than figuring out how to fix it, trust the NCAA to do what's best for the bureaucrats who run college sports and the coaches who command the big bucks and benefit the most.

As to figuring something out from the athletes' point of view, never fear, the NCAA will say they're here to fix things.

Here's how that solution will probably go: Tell the student-athletes to stay put and shut up, unless of course their coach wants them to go. Then get out of here.

Restrict freedom for student-athletes. Expand control for coaches and administrators. And get it completely wrong -- again. It's the NCAA way. This insulated bunch doesn't get it and never will.

Back in business Thursday

Nelson Agholor's late-breaking move to a possible first-round NFL Draft pick Thursday has USC fans thinking of the good-old pre-NCAA sanctions days when there always seemed to be multiple Trojans on the line to go right away.

It's happened 11 times in the last 30 years for a USC program whose 77 first-round picks remain tops in the nation. Although it last happened in 2012 before the scholarship restrictions kicked in with Matt Kalil and Nick Perry going in the first round.

With Ohio State second at 71 first-round picks and Notre Dame third with 62, USC's top spot isn't under threat since neither looks to have a first-round pick The lead actually will widen here with Leonard Williams a sure top pick for starters.

And while there are more NFL mock drafts than there are players to be drafted these days, we'll go with Peter King at his Monday Morning Quarterback blog for SI.com on this one. He has Leonard going at No. 4 to Oakland and Nelson at No. 25 to Carolina.

Here's what the MMQB has to say about BLW: Coach Jack Del Rio, that ol’ USC Trojan, and GM Reggie McKenzie cannot believe their good fortune here. The best player for their defense, where there is a yawning need—a versatile three-technique, three-down, all-over-the-line defensive force, is there at four. As usual, the Raiders have many needs, but a big one on the line gets filled by a rare talent.

For Nelson, the Carolina pick is less certain: "It’s a tackle or wideout here, and I think pairing the quicker and faster Agholor with Kelvin Benjamin will help the home-run capability of Cam Newton and give the Panthers a threat in the return game. Wouldn’t be surprised to see Carolina take a tackle if a day-one starter is still on the board.

For USC folks, that drama will be a good reason to stay tuned until the very end Thursday. The Trojans are back and doesn't it feel good.

You can follow me on Twitter at @dweber3440 or email me at weber@uscfootball.com.

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