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Harmon: NCAA transfer rule brings freedom, will impact local interest

PROVO — The NCAA chiseled out more freedom to athletes this past week and that's a great move. But it also created what some call a farm system for elite Power 5 conference teams.

Not so cool.

The rule change announced earlier this week enables athletes to transfer to another school without their coaches and athletic departments "releasing" them or "blocking" them from making that move to specific schools.

Most recently, that means when Utah receiver Tyquez Hampton announced he was leaving the Utes for other opportunities, the school couldn't block him from transferring to other Pac-12 teams or future opponents like Wyoming and BYU. It means when BYU basketball forward Payton Dastrup chose to transfer, the school couldn't restrict him from going to any in-state program or WCC school like it did.

Freedom.

Conferences could still adopt rules that prevent players from transferring to schools within their conference.

This is great and long overdue, and will be deployed in October.

Previous restrictions got silly. A coach could up and leave for another school at will, while some coaches, almost in an act of punishment, were restricting some players like crazy. It got stupid, like when Kansas State coach Bill Snyder listed 35 "blocked" schools when second-string receiver Corey Sutton decided to leave. That wasn't just unfair, it was punitive and egotistical. Snyder even denied Sutton a release to a Division II school.

Locally, ESPN 960 Sports executive producer Mitch Harper, also part of the Rivals.com network, sees this change as positive because movement between in-state schools will now have fewer hurdles for players to navigate.

"Eliminating the permission-to-contact portion of the transfer process, in my opinion, will have a positive impact for the in-state universities," said Harper. "Think of the difficulties former basketball big man Kyle Davis and current BYU football tight end Joe Tukuafu encountered when they tried to transfer from Utah State to BYU.

"There have been too many stories like these over the years and now that can stop. It's an unnecessary distraction for the programs involved," Harper said. "If a guy doesn't want to be part of your program, let him go. The NCAA finally did something right and it should result in more stories of kids going from one in-state school to another."

In my opinion, BYU might benefit from the rule. First, as an independent, it wouldn't fit inside league transfer rules that remain intact. Second, it seems, and I could be wrong, but there seem to be more transfer requests to BYU, like that of Tukuafu, Riley Nelson (USU), James Dye (USU), Michael Wadsworth (Hawaii), Keyan Norman, Andrew Eide and David Low (SUU). Third, it appears a growing number LDS missionary athletes who originally signed at other schools seek to further careers at BYU following their service, most notably Taysom Hill.

The bad?

An exodus.

I asked Brandon Huffman, the national editor for 247 Sports.com, for his thoughts on what trends this new freedom might bring.

"I think you'll see even more transfers as a result of this," said Huffman, from Seattle.

"You may also see more tampering as a result of this. If I'm a Group of Five school, I'm nervous. What if you did all the good evaluating, found a kid that was overlooked, and he ends up being better than expected, develops quickly and now you have a Power 5 school saying 'Hey, check us out?' That could happen.

"But I think it will benefit the frustrated players more, players who want to play, but their coach will block teams (typically teams on their schedule, if they're not in their conference). Now kids can have more flexibility to leave (perhaps, except for in their own conference) and frankly, the ease that college coaches are able to leave, this was a matter of time before college players had similar flexibility."

Many coaches this week say it will change how they coach kids. They'll have to be more careful to please and accommodate. Depth charts will become even more sensitive postings on the board. The disgruntled will be more antsy to take off for greener pastures rather than "wait their turn" or "see what happens."

It could work in the reverse at a Power 5 school, too. A former four-star recruit who isn't getting the attention he thought he was promised could look for a fast move by transferring to a Mountain West or Conference USA or AAC team.

Bottom line?

Freedom is good.

Due to lawsuits, lofty reformation ideas, better leadership or just common sense, the NCAA is becoming less like a feudal kingdom.

Baby steps.