Welcome to College Football Free Agency
Nate Craig-Myers (3) catching a touchdown pass against ULM in 2016 (photo: John Reed–USA TODAY Sports)
Two more athletes have decided to leave the Auburn football program. Frankly, this writer is not surprised. This is exactly what I expected to happen when the NCAA instituted a new transfer rule last summer.
Nate Craig-Myers’ leaving will not hurt the Tigers depth as much as Harris’ departure as the team only has one scholarship tight end left on the roster. The new rule was ostensibly passed to help freshmen get more playing time without losing a year of eligibility. However, upperclassmen have learned they can use the rule too.
The new legislation did away with an athlete having to get permission from its school to transfer and at the same time mandated that the school has to enter the athlete’s name in a national recruiting data base. Then any coach is free to make an offer to that player.
In effect, the NCAA created free agency for college football.
In the past, if a player was unhappy because he did not receive the playing time he thought he should have, he was motivated to take his game to the next level. Now that players are allowed to play in up to four games and still keep their eligibility for another year as a redshirt player, those unhappy players can just leave and seek a position on another team, even in the same conference.
In the past, coaches had to be careful about playing exceptional freshman but not with the new rule. Many teams, including the Tigers, have witnessed a plethora of talented freshmen receive playing time this year.
Upperclassmen that see themselves challenged by younger players can just announce they are going elsewhere. Craig-Myers already saw himself competing for playing time behind Darius Slayton, Eli Stove, and Will Hastings. Then in the first three games this season, he’s seen the ascension of freshman phenom Seth Williams on the depth chart to give Craig-Myers even more competition. Williams had two catches against LSU last week for 35 yards, nearly matching Craig-Myers’ 39-yard season total.
Giving freshman a chance to play early without losing eligibility is a good thing, but allowing upperclassman to transfer basically as a free agent is not. However, we can expect to see more of this happening across the college football landscape as the game grows closer to a minor league model of –the NFL