Transfer Requests Must Possess “Compelling Reasons”

The football campaign of 2012 was epic in nature for the University of Notre Dame, and one Irish fans had been waiting patiently for since the days of Tony Rice.  And despite the miraculous season falling one game shy of passing the iconic threshold, ample reason existed for program supporters to smile.  After two decades of searching ND finally has its coach of the future in Brian Kelly, and though a national championship remains on the do list, the Fighting Irish’s future seemed brighter than ever after signing four 5-star recruits, the best recruiting haul in the Internet recruiting era.  After all, recruiting athletes to attend your respective university is the hard part in such a competitive arena, and once the National Letter of Intent is signed, the rest is all downhill, right?

Notre Dame is learning the hard way nothing is ever guaranteed when it comes to college football, as rumors have generated national attention that former 5-star recruit and signee, Eddie Vanderdoes, may be having second thoughts about his signed pledge to Notre Dame.  While firm details remain sketchy, and every opportunity exists for Vanderdoes to report to South Bend in June as originally planned, the situation begs the question: when should a student-athlete be allowed to transfer?  Or, considering the abundance of possible reasons a student-athlete may transfer, better yet, when should a student-athlete be denied a transfer to another university?

While never an ideal situation, often a transfer is the best option for both parties.  If a student-athlete makes it clear he no longer wishes to be a part of a program, a certain level of trust is lost that may not be capable of repair.  While a university may not want to lose a capable player, allowing a student-athlete’s release is often better than attempting to hold on to someone who has lost the desire to stay.  But is it possible for a situation to exist where a university refuses to release a student-athlete even when it’s very clear the student-athlete wants out in a bad way?

Shortly before rumors began to encircle Notre Dame’s depth chart, an interesting storyline began to emerge out of Florida State University’s campus in Tallahassee.  Former 5-star linebacker and FSU signee, Matthew Thomas, asked to be released from his scholarship in order to transfer to either Georgia or USC.  His motivation was not an ill family member or similar circumstance that is often the culprit when a student-athlete asks for a release.  Thomas’ reasoning was straightforward: he simply wanted to play somewhere other than Florida State.

As Thomas explained, “What happened on Signing Day [was] I wasn’t sure who I wanted to sign with.  I had issues with different schools.  But when I told my mom I didn’t want to sign with anybody and wait and give it a few days she said I couldn’t do that.  She said, ‘FSU is a good school – pick them.  It’s close to home.’  I wasn’t agreeing with it.  But I felt like I was being disrespectful to her if I didn’t sign.  So I made her happy.”

Florida State’s coaching staff made attempts to dissuade Thomas from his desire to transfer to no avail, which ultimately lead to FSU denying Thomas’ request to transfer.  To add more intrigue to the situation, Florida State’s athletic director, Randy Spetman, told members of the media that FSU would be “more than happy to release someone if there is a compelling reason.”  By denying the transfer request, FSU left the ball in Thomas’ court: either he honors his scholarship to Florida State or he sits out the 2013-2014 season before moving on to another program.

The key phrase in the Thomas ordeal resides in Spetman’s “ compelling reason” comment.  Programs invest significant planning and resources during recruiting, and having a signed recruit leave before even enrolling as a student-athlete simply because he would prefer to be elsewhere is dangerous precedent ground.  Losing Thomas to transfer would cost the Seminoles a year of recruiting at Thomas’ position and is unfair to other recruits.  There are likely a number of different high school athletes that would have been more than willing to fill Thomas’ spot, but with a commitment already in place, Florida State had no reason to pursue another.  And with a commitment made on January 25th, Thomas had over one full year to investigate his options in order to make the right decision for his future.

I am a firm believer that when a student-athlete at Notre Dame asks for a transfer, it should be granted, with a rejection being an exception to the rule.  The University of Notre Dame is a unique place and doesn’t suit everyone.  However, a transfer request should have a “compelling reason”, and Notre Dame should keep that in mind when dealing with future transfer requests, particularly from those who have yet to even enroll as a student.

Scott Janssen is a blogger for the Huffington Post and has authored several nationally-featured articles as well as co-founded a nationally-featured non-profit organization. In his spare time he takes his NCAA Football ’13 online dynasty way too seriously and alienates those around him by discussing football 24 hours a day. Scott can be reached at

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  1. “Notre Dame is learning the hard way nothing is ever guaranteed when it comes to college football, as rumors have generated national attention that former 5-star recruit and signee, Eddie Vanderdoes, may be having second thoughts about his signed pledge to Notre Dame.”

    I guarantee UND is very good in college football. Good enough to inspire crooks’ to attack her in the summer months.

  2. Now you don’t really exspect us to believe that Ohio State, their alums and fans, have magically improved their social standing all the way up to “white trash redneck” overnight do you ?

    To imply as much seems rather insensitive to all white trash rednecks everywhere.

    Besides… I believe the correct saying for them is, holy hell on Saturday, hung over on Sunday, and out on bail by Monday!

  3. Here’s one:

    You just can’t trust those damn WASPs and white trash rednecks. They are holy hell on Saturday and hung over on Sunday and the rest of the week. Only kidding. Does this offend Ohio State alums and fans?

    1. Why the big outcry for the Rutgers AD to step down over some stuff that happened a decade ago (not confirmed) but no calls for the OSU pres to step down after a bonafide recorded incident?

  4. Look at Ohio State. There great coach gets fired for punching a player and they get put on probation for selling memorabilia for tattoos. You might as well call it Trailer Park U. The only year they win the National Championship in years and their running back is stealing stereos.

    Now their President of the University is copying a page out of Feilding Yost’s. is that school always going to be in Michigan’s shadow

  5. Like C-Dog, myself, and others here have said over and over: If you think that the hatred of ND football is merely about sports and not also about an underlying anti-Catholic prejudice, then you’re terribly naive or blind to facts. The WASPs are losing their demographic superiority and their dominant social place. Now they’re resorting to old, 19th c. anti-Catholic stereotypes. (BTW: While most Protestants don’t consider Mormons to be Christians, Mormons do see themselves as being a part of WASP America.) Gee is simply saying what WASPs have always believed.

    Politically conservative Catholics should know that our allies are erstwhile at best.

    1. SFR,

      Like you said, this is nothing new really, and I think most Catholics pretty much just shrug it off anymore, especially when it comes from a place like Ohio State which is hardly surprising anymore.

      Appears to me to be nothing more than a little “one-upsmenship”

      Brady Hoke calls us chicken so OSU has to do them one better.

      In all actuality, I found his (Gee’s) statement: “The fathers are holy on Sunday, and they’re holy hell the rest of the week,” as somewhat of a complement.

      It indicates a superior level of tough, shrewed, business savvy leaders.

      There is nothing wrong with that!

      In fact, there are a lot worst reputations that a college could have! (Insert Ohio State University here)

      1. My question is why does Notre Dame or other Catholics have to “shrug it off” while in other instance like Sergio Garcia saying he would serve fried Chicken if he had Tiger Woods over for dinner become a “teachable moment” like Obama might say for the rest of us and a national apology tour results with Jesse Jackass and the “Rev” Al Sharpton marching around. Imagine if Fr Jenkins said “you cant trust those gay students.” It would be the top story everywhere. I just don’t like the fact that Catholicism is the last acceptable form of bigotry in this country and we don’t get a card to play like everyone else (actually I would rather have that entire race/gay/gender card or crutch if you will, wiped out entirely)

    2. Gee’s comments carry little value considering what has happened at that institution and it’s football players/programs. Considering his own religious denomination is also “frowned” upon by many, you’d think he would be a little more wiser in his public statements. Yes, anti-Catholicism is still rampant and contributes to the ND “hatred.” This Irish/German Catholic wears my Catholicism like a badge of honor.

      Go Irish

  6. I think all colleges should have a major in all the major sports, those on their respective teams that choose other than academics be not called student athletes but fund raisers. They would not get a degree from that institution but would get a modest stipend. If they choose to leave so be it, if they wanted an education they would have to comply with the University guidelines. Recruting could be year round and acceptance based on the number of players allowed on a team. Food and lodging for the fund raisers would be provided as it is currently. With a little planning this may separate the wheat from the chaffe

  7. OT: reading the article on this site about the Mormon president of OSU slamming Catholics and the priests of ND, I wonder if the mainstream media will hold him accountable for anti-Catholicism? Probably not. Don Imus mentioned nappy headed ho’s and had to go on a national apology tour. Imagine if they replaced the word ‘Catholic’ in the OSU president’s remarks with “blacks, homosexuals, transgendered.” There would be outrage. Will ESPN give this as much coverage as the Manti Teo prank or Declan Sullivan death? Probably not. I hope we get to meet OSU in a bowl and show them who’s boss. If Catholics can’t be trusted the president of OSU should start by firing his “Catholic” head football coach Urban M

    1. Gee is a narcoleptic bore that tells the same stories over and over and over and over again…

    2. Why not schedule a 1 + 1 with the arrogants, the big mouths, the weak and teach them a lesson? ND is strong IMO.

      1. What religion does Gordon Gee practice? That might provide a clue if anyone, perchance, knows.

      2. Rumor has it, that he is a member of The Church of Ed Wood. (

        Or the practice of Woodism.

        There are many reasons why people practice this bazaar

        In Gee’s case, I think the goofy old coot just likes to
        start each day with a little Wood.

  8. Every school loses players to transfer. Alabama lost two QB’s Phillip Simms who was a 5 star and they just lost their back up. It happens for many reasons; Homesickness, not playing, not handling the academics, wanting to be close to friends and the infamous bad grades and fail out rate. Sitting a year is the right rule if you want to transfer. If you didn’t sit a year kids would transfer all the time. The post earlier about these kids getting bombarded with letters from colleges is true, but how about the bullshit press conferences we see with the hats and the other stuff. The kids relish it and in some instance like the fact the schools are all over them.

    Then there is the issue of how many of these kids actually make it to the NFL. One thing I love to look at is the Rivals 5 stars after four years. They evaluate their 5 star recruits at the end of their college career. You would be surprised how many didn’t have productive careers.

    Remember CW’s last year and the next great pass rusher Chris Martin. He transferred to Cal, lasted one year and trasnferred to UF and lasted one year and now is playing for CW at Kansas.

    How about Omar Hunter the next great Defensive tackle who shunned the Irish for UF. He had a modest career, but nothing to write home about.

    I am confident that when a kid walks through the door at ND he will be developed both mentally and physically. I like the way BK develops his players and I am sure that whether Mr. Vanderdous comes to ND or doesn’t that someone else will step up. However I would like to see him in a ND uniform to see what BK and Diaco can do with him, but if he doesn’t come I wish him luck.

    Patrick read other programs and see the transfer lists, they are huge. Some of the kids you mentioned like Neal transfered to be near a child so that doesn’t count. Keil didn’t like Chuck Martin and wanted to start. It isn’t just ND it happens to every program.

  9. “The football campaign of 2012 was epic in nature for the University of Notre Dame, and one Irish fans had been waiting patiently for since the days of Tony Rice.”


    Be that as it may E Golston could not deliver versus Alabama.
    (no disrespect to EG intended)

    1. He certainly “delivered” in the other 11 they won. And, of course, his performance against ‘Bama’ was one of the few bright spots of that forget-worthy spectacle.

  10. What concerns me the most is ND seems to be losing key players to transfer. It makes me wonder – why? Kiel, the kid from AZ, couple others. Does an average player on the depth chart bother me if they leave? Not really. But when they are expected to be starters in key positions, it brings on the curiosity.

  11. It’s madness,

    Today, a good highschool football player gets stacks of offers, from the very finest colleges, from accross the entire country, to play big time ball and get a full free ride scholarship in which they can play and earn a college degree.

    And all they have to do for this amazing oppertunity is just pick one college and stick with it?

    Ever wounder what would happen to some of these kids if the military draft ever came back?

    You remember…. where the military TELLS you where to report, when to report, what branch you will serve in, what your job will be, and where you will serve.

    Maybe if a kid wants to change his mind…. just because he can… perhaps instead of just “sitting” out a year, it would be more advantagous to have them serve in our armed forces for that time?

    Sounds like a win, win, situation for everyone doesn’t it?

  12. The problem is that even after a student has committed to a particular school coaches from other schools do their best to try and change their minds. You can stop the silliness very easily. Once a letter of intent has been signed , if a student/player wants out he has to forfeit a year of eligibility. It may not stop it completely but it will make a school and player think twice.

  13. The Vanderdoes family has not mention Notre Dame in the last two weeks and now Eddie will make a statement about the “false” rumors (which again he did not mention Notre Dame). I would feel optimistic for Eddie playing at ND if he would’ve stated earlier that he had no intention to leave. Since he has dragged this on for so long, I have no confidence that he will play at ND.

    The article mention something about recruiting. I think Brian Kelly and his staff should recruit thinking that Vanderdoes is not on the team. I know the target was about two-three defensive linemen in this upcoming class. That number should be pushed to four d-linemen for the 2014 recruiting cycle.

  14. Players generally get “5 to play 4,” meaning that a student-athlete may play a varsity-level sport for four years, but is permitted to sit out one whole year (i.e. “redshirt”). If a student-athlete transfers to a new school, he or she must sit out for the immediately-following athletic season, unless the school from which the student-athlete transferred waives that requirement. That is an absolute right of the school, and so it can choose to release the student, or not; on a practical level, the condition is waived if the student-athlete hasn’t angered the existing school and the transfer is to another school that isn’t a rival (i.e. a 5-star defensive tackle transferring from Notre Dame to USC would not receive the waiver). It would be ideal, of course, if schools would simply waive this requirement, but you can see why they wouldn’t. It’s particularly difficult for new students who haven’t even formally enrolled, for the reasons stated in the article. I have no problem with Florida State refusing to release the player and making him sit out for a year, nor would I have a problem with ND if it does the same. However, I remain optimistic that Mr. Vanderdoes will become a full-blooded Irish-man in June. We want him, and he will love the University and all its stands for. This all assumes, of course, that the Admissions Office lightens up a little.

    1. If a player wants out of his LOI and it’s denied by the university and the NCAA upholds the denial, then a player must sit out the following season and they lose a year of eligibility. So basically, if EV decides sitting out a year is worth it just so he does not have to play for ND, he also loses that year and will essentially get 4 years to play 3. Next year would be considered his red shirt season and then he would get 3 years of eligibility. And if he gets injured and it costs him one of those seasons, he could very well only have 2 years of college ball. He may be the best DL to ever play but only 2 years of college could very well prevent him from making it to the NFL or if he does, he could be drafted very late. Not saying he should come to ND but there is a pretty stiff penalty for breaking the contract that was signed.

  15. Are there NCAA rules about this or did Florida State make up its own? If there are rules, what are they? If Thomas stays at Florida State, sits out a year and then transfers, does he still have to wait another year until he can play? Or does he lose a year of eligibility?

    When a school agrees to release a player, are there NCAA rules about that? Or is the release simply a contract between the school and the player where the school can attach any conditions that are bargained-for and accepted? Is restricting the schools that a player can transfer to something provided for in the NCAA rules? Is there any limit to the number of schools that a releasing school can make off-limits? Does a “reasonableness” standard apply at all to conditions imposed by the releasing school?

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