Waiver denials of Williams and Dunn highlight flaws in NCAA transfer process

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Despite strong arguments for immediate eligibility, a pair of former Cleveland State players will be sitting out the season after transferring

The NCAA has denied Rashad Williams’ waiver request to play for Oakland this season after he transferred from Cleveland State in the offseason. The news comes five days after the heavily publicized waiver denial of fellow Cleveland State transfer Rasheem Dunn, now at St. John’s after sitting out last year with the Vikings. Both players had waivers denied despite extenuating circumstances that the NCAA has used to justify immediate eligibility in the past.

Dunn sat out last season as a transfer only to have the coach that recruited him fired, at which point he decided to move closer to his Brooklyn hometown to play for St. John’s. Detroit native Williams transferred to Oakland in the wake of the coaching change in order to be closer to a sick relative. Both players had multiple circumstances that alone give a solid argument for a waiver, and yet both had their waivers denied. Dunn now looks to be losing a year of eligibility, pending an appeal. The common thread connecting the denied waivers doesn’t seem to have anything to do with the circumstances of the transfer, but in most cases with whether or not the former school approved of it in the first place.

While an argument could be made that sitting out for a season, coaching changes and being closer to home aren’t technically reason to be given a waiver; that requires the devil’s advocate to ignore several of the waivers given out this season. In Horizon League-related transfers alone, players have received waivers despite not having nearly the arguments that the Cleveland State transfers did. Former Northern Kentucky center Chris Vogt followed his old coach John Brannen to Cincinnati. The Bearcats are close enough to Northern Kentucky’s campus that they played their home games there last year and Vogt actually left his home state in the transfer, so it’s not a situation where he’s transferring closer to home. Northern Kentucky surely didn’t run Vogt off given that size is going to be a serious concern against Wright State’s League Player of the Year candidate Loudon Love and Oakland’s talented front court, not to mention Cincinnati is a higher profile program than NKU. You would be hard pressed to argue that anything but the coaching change played a role in the move, but he’ll be eligible to play for the Bearcats this year. 

Detroit Mercy forward Justin Miller transferred from Louisiana for his final year of eligibility. The Kentucky native wasn’t a graduate transfer, nor was he transferring close to home. While Detroit Mercy should likely offer a bit more playing time for the former spot starter, he clearly wasn’t run off a season after averaging 9 points and 7.4 rebounds per game for the Ragin’ Cajuns. Nonetheless, he’ll be eligible this year for the Titans.

There’s no doubt that figuring out where to draw the line for transfer waivers is a difficult task. Still, I think most can agree that drawing it in a spot that puts the power in the hands of a potentially jilted coach or administrator isn’t the answer. Several players who will suit up this season don’t have the arguments that Dunn and Williams had to be granted immediately eligible this year. Now both players will be left waiting on appeals to see if they’ll be eligible this year, but with the start of the season just days away it seems like both will miss at least some action this year regardless of the appeals process.

While it’s not certain how the appeals will play out, there’s one thing that seems clear:

Cleveland State Athletic Director Scott Garrett can probably preemptively add Massachusetts to the growing list of schools that won’t hire him in the future.

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