Yes, Pittsburgh, There is a Precedent For A Graduate Transfer (With Zero Restrictions) to an ACC School

images-3Good morning, Atlantic Coast Conference fans.  Hope you are enjoying a great Memorial Day Weekend.

We wrote previously about the Pittsburgh’s position on Cameron Johnson’s transfer here.

Cameron Johnson, a 6’8″ 210 pound guard, wants to transfer from Pittsburgh.  He was recruited by Jamie Dixon and we’re most certainly didn’t think he would be playing for Kevin Stallings.  Cameron Johnson, let it be known, has also completed his academic requirements.  Yes, that means he is a Pittsburgh alumnus – and would put him in the category of graduate transfer.  Let me make sure I say this again:  Cameron Johnson has completed his academic requirements at Pittsburgh.

Make sure you check out this article here from @JosephNardone on Pittsburgh and Kevin Stallings.  Nardone had some good points below:

The same overvalued self-worth the Pitt fan base and alumni began to feel — as a reason to push the Dixon overstayed his welcome agenda — is biting Stallings in the rear. He has no sense of self-awareness. He has ignored his surroundings and the landscape of today’s media, doubling down on a transfer situation which is clearly a hill not worth dying on… all while operating on a campus and within a fan base bubble that wants consistent greatness.

He can’t hide behind the NCAA for this decision, either. The blocking of Johnson from going to North Carolina is a Pittsburgh rule. [emphasis mine] The university can change it if it sees fit — or, more accurately, Stallings can ask for an exception on behalf of not looking like the misguided keeper of unpaid laborers.

It gets even worse for Stallings as he heads into his second season in the ACC. Gone are very good players from an underachieving Pitt team, and the roster doesn’t project to be competent heading into 2017-18. When preseason experts begin to weigh in, it is as likely that the once-mighty Panthers will be selected as a bottom-three ACC team as it is that the sun will rise in the morning.

Oh, and it is most certainly worth mentioning that Pitt’s 2017 recruiting class is full of stars: 15, in fact. Five three-star players. That’s not exactly the caliber of talent that projects the program to do well in the ACC.

On its own, blocking Johnson from going to certain schools is probably unethical, immoral and outdated… but it at least has some merit, even if only in Stallings’ mind. The problem: He is not operating in a vacuum. He’s doing this after a debacle of a first season at a new job with a second voyage likely to end in a worse disaster. If there’s a third season, it might be measurably worse than that.

This is no longer on the Pitt faithful. Maybe it could be argued the fan base shooed away the person who was already the right man for the job (Dixon), but what is happening now falls squarely on the shoulders of dubious university rules and a coach who appears to have only two abilities — being inept and lacking understanding.

Luckily for most coaches in positions similar to Stallings, winning cures all. An NCAA Tournament run would make most worries vanish in an instant.

Unlike other coaches in positions similar to the Pitt coach, Stallings is incapable of conjuring those wins. Instead, he will stand by his suspect business decisions (while operating under the guise of amateurism) and look to the hardwood as his poorly-shaped teams make his ending with the Panthers feel like we all already know where it is headed.

This is all true.  Every word.

Andy Staples from Sports Illustrated had an ever better take here:

Why is Pittsburgh doing this? According to a statement released by the school, this is why:

“We have remained consistent with our athletic department policy, within NCAA legislation, stipulating student-athletes are restricted from transferring to institutions within the Atlantic Coast Conference and those on our schedule next season,” assistant athletics director for media relations Matt Plizga wrote in the statement. “Cameron Johnson and his father were informed of our policy as well as the appeals process when they elected to seek transfer. They went through our transfer appeals process and were granted permission to contact ACC school however, the committee upheld the policy to limit immediate eligibility within the conference.

“If Cameron were to transfer within the ACC, he would be eligible to receive financial aid immediately but would have to sit out a year of competition due to standard NCAA transfer regulations. Throughout this process, we have remained consistent to our department policy and we will continue to do so.”

Translation: “We’re either jerks who don’t want this guy to have all the choices he should have, or we’re cowards because we’re afraid to play him with Roy Williams coaching him. You decide.”

Note the phrase “our athletic department policy.” That doesn’t say “NCAA rule.” It doesn’t say “ACC rule.” Pitt isn’t bound by a higher authority here. This is a Pitt policy, and it can be changed today if Stallings and his administration decide to end this particular jerk/coward scenario.

Again, Staples is spot on.

It’s important for us to report on the logic fallacies at Pittsburgh, too.  Adam Smith from Virginia Tech transferred to Georgia Tech for his senior year without restriction.  For more, please see the @RoanokeTimes here:

ATLANTA — Adam Smith started his classes for the new school year on Monday.

But he was not on the campus of Virginia Tech, where he had graduated from three months earlier. He now attends one of Virginia Tech’s ACC rivals — Georgia Tech. The former Hokies off-guard will play for the Yellow Jackets men’s basketball team as a graduate student this season.

“A perfect opportunity,” said Smith, who is from suburban Atlanta.

He led the Hokies in scoring as a fourth-year junior last season, averaging 13.4 points for coach Buzz Williams’ squad. But Virginia Tech announced in late March that he had decided to transfer. Smith picked Georgia Tech the following month.

Smith said Monday that he left Virginia Tech for academic, not basketball, reasons.

Smith, who was a multimedia journalism major, said he could have remained at Virginia Tech for his final season of basketball eligibility. But he was not interested in pursuing a second bachelor’s degree from the school, nor was he intrigued by any of the master’s degree programs at Virginia Tech.

“I felt like a master’s would be more beneficial to me than a dual degree would be in the long run, so I started looking at [graduate] programs,” Smith said. “I worked in a lot of video production with my undergraduate [studies] at Virginia Tech, and I felt like to do what I needed to do in the future to reach some of my career goals, I would have to get more of an audio, musical side to my degree. … Virginia Tech did not offer that.

“I talked to my parents about it. They were fans of Virginia Tech, … but they supported me in my decision to look elsewhere for other graduate programs. I talked to Coach Buzz about it. … He worked with me in the process.”

Smith is pursuing a master’s degree in music technology at Georgia Tech.

“They had exactly what I was looking for,” Smith said. “I’d like to own or be a manager of a multimedia facility — maybe a TV station, radio station. I had the video production side … at Virginia Tech. … But I wasn’t really equipped with the whole sound aspect of it. … I need the sound aspect or the music technology aspect to build a complete package.”

This is Smith’s third college stop.

After playing for UNC Wilmington as a freshman, Smith transferred to Virginia Tech and sat out the 2012-13 season under the NCAA’s transfer rules. Smith averaged 11 points for the Hokies in an injury-plagued 2013-14 season.

Smith started 21 games for the last-place Hokies last season, averaging 29.9 minutes and sinking a team-high 81 3-pointers. It was Williams’ first season at the helm of the Hokies.

“I learned a lot from Buzz,” Smith said. “I have the utmost respect for him.”

In an overtime win over Pittsburgh, Smith made a 3-pointer with less than a second left to force overtime and made the winning 3-pointer with 3.6 seconds to go in overtime. He finished with 26 points, one of three times he scored more than 20 points against an ACC foe last season.

After Smith opted to transfer, Williams said in a March text message to The Roanoke Times that “Adam and I are close. He is a great kid.”

Smith did not start in the team’s two games in the 2015 ACC Tournament, but he said that did not contribute to his decision to transfer.

“I was fine with that,” Smith said. “We changed stuff up and it worked. … I respected and trusted Coach Buzz.”

Smith said he did not leave out of any fear that his minutes might decrease this season, when there will be a number of Virginia Tech perimeter players seeking playing time.

“I’ve kind of prevailed in a lot of situations, so that wasn’t a factor,” he said.

Virginia Tech granted Smith a release to play anywhere he chose. Smith, a native of Jonesboro, Georgia, said Georgia Tech, Georgia State and Georgia Southern contacted him. [Emphasis mine]

So, yes, Pittsburgh has actively chosen the wrong side of the coin on Cameron Johnson’s graduate transfer restriction.  There is a precedent for permitted graduate transfer in the ACC without restrictions.  Look no further than Virginia Tech’s Adam Smith, who completed his academic degree at Virginia Tech in 2014-15 – and played right away at Georgia Tech in 2015-16.

The only reason that Pittsburgh is doing this is because Johnson is the ONLY offense coming back next season for Pittsburgh – and they don’t want to face him in conference.  It is beyond petty.  Pittsburgh hired a very athletic director in Heather Lyke (we reported on that hire here) – and I’m honestly surprised that she supports this restriction.

I had a conversation with @WillsWorldMN tonight about the Cameron Johnson restriction.  We both agreed that if he got an attorney and sued based on this graduate transfer restriction, Pittsburgh would probably relent.  We are both sure that many attorneys would provide pro bono free legal services for Johnson.

Let us drop some facts here:

  1. Pittsburgh’s entire roster – much of it anyway – is gone.  Jamel Artis, Michael Young, and Sheldon Jeter, an experienced group of players, have completed their basketball eligibility – they are graduates.  The only reason that Pittsburgh has the restriction on Cameron Johnson is that he is the SOLE offense coming back next season for Pittsburgh – and they don’t want to face him in conference.  It is beyond petty.  Pittsburgh hired a very athletic director in Heather Lyke (we reported on that hire here) – and I’m honestly surprised that she supports this restriction.
  2. Oh yeah, everyone else is leaving Pitt, too. (h/t @CardialHill)
  3. The Peterson Events Center is going to be empty next year whenever concerts aren’t held there.  Basketball attendance is going to drop substantially.
  4. Kevin Stallings has two years – maybe one if the Pete is empty and #5 below happens:


6. In short:

Have a great long weekend, folks!!

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  1. Chris says:

    You make a lot of irrelevant points about Kevin Stallings and the roster and such but are completely missing the point. It is all about setting a precedent.
    If a player can go to Pitt, or BC or another rebuilding program and play a lot as a freshman and sophomore and develop and then transfer within the conference without penalty, then Pitt or BC or School X becomes a de factor “farm team” for UNC or Duke. I think we can agree that this is not in the best interest of the conference for optical (Pitt is UNC’s AAA team – ha) and competitive reasons. This is not about Cam per se (even though he has 40+ other major conference programs to choose from outside the ACC where he can excel – so he’s not really “limited”). It is about setting a “legal” precedent. If it was only for one year, I might see Pitt lifting the restriction (which they are effectively doing by having him sit one year), but not for a transfer that can play for two years.

    1. Hokie Smash says:

      Chris, thanks for reading. So, for the record, you think someone shouldn’t be able to transfer anywhere they want without restriction if they have completed their undergraduate academic requirements? Just want to be sure that is what you are saying. I have another question for you – I imagine there are plenty of attorneys that would do pro bono work for Cameron Johnson if he wanted to challenge the Pitt restriction. Does Pitt lie down if it comes to a lawsuit?

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