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Rodney Purvis and Transferring in the Modern Era

Jason Miller

There was a small bit of outrage this morning when an article hit detailing the limitations N.C. State has placed on freshman Rodney Purvis's transfer out of Raleigh. The Wolfpack are forbidding Purvis from heading to any current ACC school, future ACC schools Louisville and Notre Dame, and two schools that may end up on N.C. Starr's non-conference slate, Missouri and Cincinnati. This struck members of the media as excessive, and led to a couple of disparaging posts and tweets. State fans, always sensitive to media mistreatment, feel this is an unfair singling out of the folks in Raleigh for putting standard limitations on a transfer.

The Wolfpackers have a point; bans like this are the standard operating procedure nowadays. It's also a lousy thing to do. And the problem with doing lousy things - even if everyone does them - is that occasionally people sit up and notice, and get mad at you.

One reason for the anger, however, is that the college landscape has changed, and people a slow to recognize all the consequences. A good comparison here is one of the more notable transfers under Dean Smith. Clifford Rozier was the fifth member of the stellar 1990 recruiting class that would eventually cut down the nets their junior year in New Orleans. Rozier was the fifth Beatle in the group however, and left after his freshman year for more playing time and a program where he would be a better fit. I have no idea if any limitations were placed on his transfer; but let's suppose there were. Keeping Rozier from the rest of the ACC would rule out eight teams, each of which were guaranteed to play UNC twice. And as these were the days where a trip to the ACC championship was pretty likely for the Tar Heels, there was roughly a 30% chance a given ACC team might get a third meeting. Then there's the fact that a potential transfer probably wouldn't be too eager to stay in the ACC; three of the in-conference options were other North Carolina schools, and the culture and style of basketball throughout the conference was a lot more homogeneous. Sure enough, Rozier ended up at Louisville, where he had considerable success before a short career in the pros. (Rozier has since battle problems with drugs and mental illness, as recounted in an excellent article on the man that came out a few years ago.)

But now? Purvis's no-go list has ballooned to 17 teams, spanning as far away as Missouri, Indiana, and Massachusetts. And most grating, it includes the team to which Purvis had committed to prior to deciding on State, Louisville. When he spurned the Cardinals for the ACC, Louisville wasn't in talks to join the conference. The landscape shifted under his feet, and yet people can't grasp that the standard policies developed in the days before the mega-conferences might seem draconian now.

Because let's face it. Odds are, Purvis has no desire to attend Missouri, or Cincinnati, or Notre Dame, to pick three of farther-flung teams on the list. (The most popular rumor has him headed to Connecticut, the last bastion of the original Big East.) But forbidding such a large number will strike anyone as overreach. Especially in a system where coaches can switch schools at will, with their new employers picking up the million-dollar tabs to buy out old contracts. No one cares where a non-athlete transfers, and all the feel-good NCAA ads about spirit squads don't mask the fact that they're making obscene amounts of money on the backs of indentured labor.

UNC has been fortunate that kids wanting to transfer out have generally headed towards their hometowns, be it California for Larry Drew, the Wears and Alex Stephenson, or Minnesota for Adam Boone. So I'm not trying to claim higher ground over N.C. State. But the thing they're doing here is unfair, if not unusual. And it's not bias when a normally oblivious media points it out. Let Purvis go where he wants; odds are he won't want to revisit Raleigh anyway.