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Brad Rock: This time the NCAA gets something right

Utah Utes forward David Collette (13) tries to shut down California Golden Bears guard Darius McNeill (1) at the Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Feb. 10, 2018. Spenser Heaps, Deseret News
Utah Utes forward David Collette (13) receives a hug from head coach Larry Krystkowiak during a senior-day ceremony following the Utah Utes' 64-54 senior-day victory against the Colorado Buffaloes at the Jon M. Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City on Saturday, March 3, 2018. Collette was injured during the game. Jacob Wiegand, Deseret News
Utah State Aggies guard Diogo Brito takes a shot with Utah Utes forward David Collette defending during NCAA basketball at Vivint Smart Home Arena in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Dec. 9, 2017. Ravell Call, Deseret News
Utah Utes forward David Collette (13) puts the ball in during the game against the California Golden Bears at the Huntsman Center in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Feb. 10, 2018. Spenser Heaps, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — The moment David Collette decided to transfer from Utah State to Utah in 2015, there was trouble to pay. Collette paid in tuition, time and social media blowback. Ute basketball coach Larry Krystkowiak paid in angry accusations. Tim Duryea, then Utah State's coach, paid with his job.

In Tuesday's Aggie Legends podcast, Collette revisited the transfer that rocked northern Utah. The 6-foot-10 center admitted the process was frustrating and time-consuming. Did we mention it also was a possible NCAA rules violation?

No, but Collette did.

The former Murray High star told the podcast he broke (bent?) rules with his high-profile transfer.

"The way I transferred technically was not legal," he said.

What happened wasn't enough to concern the governing body of college sports. But it certainly concerned Duryea, who did what he could to bring down the tent, refusing to grant Collette permission to speak with other schools. Under NCAA rules at that time, a transferring player couldn't contact another school's coach until he was enrolled there. Collette eventually did so and paid his own tuition for a semester.

Duryea was incensed he didn't get word on the transfer until two days before the start of his first season as head coach. An all-conference player as a redshirt freshman, Collette had known Utah's coaches from his recruitment days.

Utah State issued a press release, in which Duryea railed on the practice of "poaching" other teams' players. It was obvious which coach he was referencing: Krystkowiak, who was widely accused of tampering. Aggie fans excoriated him and Collette. Duryea ended up going 47-49 as the head coach and getting fired.

Nobody came out looking all that good.

"I was shocked when he came into my office today and said he was going to quit," Duryea said at the time. "I think there were a lot of factors in play that, unfortunately, have become a trend in college basketball of schools poaching other schools' players. I don't feel good and don't like how things transpired, but we will move on and get ready for our season opener on Friday."

Collette had begun having issues with Duryea's coaching style and tactics in the fall of 2015, and decided to leave.

"The rule is that I can't have contact with any school. They (USU) block me, right? I can't contact any school to talk about going there, neither can I have a family member, a friend, anybody — I can't have anybody communicate with the school for me," Collette said on the podcast. "What happened is I had people communicate for me. So we were kind of following rules in that I never talked to Utah personally, but I had contact with them."

Duryea was let go the same year Collette finished his collegiate career.

Nowadays, the transfer process has been streamlined. The NCAA created a transfer portal database, whereby athletes can declare intention to transfer and place their names on the free market. That reduced the need for as much drama as occurred with Collette.

Anyone who doubts contact happened with practically every transfer athlete of that era is living in My Pretty Ponyland. Somehow players always knew circumstances before leaving their former schools. After enrolling at Utah for the spring 2016 semester, Collette met with Krystkowiak.

In a 2017 Deseret News story, Krystkowiak said, "We were contacted by someone in his circle that said, 'Hey, would you guys have a scholarship if he was interested in coming to Utah?' and I said, 'I think we could probably, you know, figure one out.'"

If there had been a blatant rules violation, wouldn't the NCAA have acted when Collette transferred? Duryea was complaining to high heaven about poaching. Krystkowiak was admitting Collette's people contacted his people. And Collette was complaining about not getting released from his commitment to USU, thus forcing him to pay for his own tuition. Yet no NCAA action ensued.

Everyone in this tale had a reason for their actions. Duryea had been left twisting in the wind at the start of his first year as head coach. Collette was leaving a system he no longer trusted. Krystkowiak got a player who would start for two seasons.

The biggest takeaway from the entire drama is that as heavy-handed as the NCAA can be, it sometimes gets things right. The new transfer portal enables more transparency and clarity in the process. The only question, in hindsight, is why someone didn't think of this sooner.