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The NCAA’s transfer waiver process is broken, but not for the reasons Jay Bilas says it is

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The vast majority of transfer waivers are granted, and most of them are quite likely full of lies.

NCAA Basketball: Maui Invitational Preview Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

I read a lot of dumb takes about college sports on the internet, and most of them I’ll either just ignore as I click to close the browser tab, or else I might dump it into the morning Anchor Drop as I point and laugh at the author, but occasionally I read such a bad-faith take about something that I just have to respond, and you have to listen to it because I have a platform and you don’t.

Such is the case with this complete drivel from ESPN writer Jay Bilas, in which Jay is Mad Online because a basketball player (Nike Sibande) transferred from Miami (Ohio) to Pitt, applied for a waiver, said waiver was denied, and then he complained about how unfair it was that the NCAA would not grant him a waiver. (SB Nation’s Pitt blog does not agree with the take you are about to hear, because of course they don’t.)

Except Bilas makes a telling admission in all of this.

There is little reasonable debate that the NCAA’s transfer policy and waiver process is a hot mess. Actually, it can be better characterized (to echo the description of another recent event) as a hot mess inside of a dumpster fire. It’s a system with a Byzantine set of rules that allow schools to have a say over whether their departing players can gain immediate eligibility at their chosen destinations.

That said, players, coaches and administrators largely handle such transfers and waiver requests with common sense and cooperation. Some, however, do not. Nike Sibande has experienced the latter.

Ah, yes, the actual transfer waiver process. The process which has so far denied seven waiver requests (with two of those denials under appeal) while granting seven waiver requests... in the Ohio Valley Conference alone. Any time somebody complains about somebody’s waiver getting denied, just take a look at that list, compare the number of waivers granted to the number denied, and understand that the player must have had a really terrible case for a waiver.

Or, in this case, let slip the real reason they were transferring.

Bilas glosses over the facts in this case because they don’t really support the point he’s trying to make. To sum up, Nike Sibande, who’s from Indianapolis, was a player at Miami (Ohio), which is roughly 90 miles from Indianapolis. He claimed that he transferred to Pitt in order to be closer to his newborn daughter, which the waiver application actually concedes that he convinced the mother of the child to move from (I’m assuming) Indianapolis to Pittsburgh after Sibande had transferred to Pitt. And, as it turned out, he’d told Miami that he wanted to transfer to Pitt to play on a bigger stage to prepare for the NBA.

In other words, Sibande’s waiver application (like most waiver applications, but I’ll get to that in a minute) was transparently bullshit, and Bilas (and, well, a lot of the usual NCAA haters) simply don’t care as long as they can take a potshot at the big bad NCAA and some mid-major program that earned their ire. But all of this is pretty damn telling about how this entire process actually works.

When a player transfers between schools and wants a waiver to play immediately, he submits his waiver request to the NCAA detailing the reasons why he transferred schools and why that entitles him to play immediately. In a disturbingly large number of cases, the reasons that the player gives in the waiver application are completely false, but the reason why so many of them are granted is because few schools don’t bother to contest them. Or, as Jay Bilas put it:

players, coaches and administrators largely handle such transfers and waiver requests with common sense and cooperation

No, the problem here is that while the official NCAA rule is that you have to sit a year after you transfer, some schools have decided that they shouldn’t and have backdoored a rule change to make them not have to sit out. And... we’re supposed to be mad at the school following the rules and not playing along with obvious bullshit.