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Are Schools Abusing the "Hardship" Transfer Rules?

More transfers looking for a waiver of the one-year waiting period

By

Tyler Smith

Tyler Smith's accelerated transfer to Tennessee may have started an uncomfortable trend...

Getty Images / Chris Graythen
Every once in a while, even a bloated bureaucracy like the NCAA can set aside the "letter of the law" and do what's right.

Such was the case with Tyler Smith.

Smith, a native of Pulaski, Tennessee, originally committed to the Vols out of high school. He changed his mind when Bruce Pearl replaced Buzz Peterson as head coach and eventually wound up playing for Iowa, where he was the Hawkeyes' leading rebounder in 2006-07.

But when his father was diagnosed with terminal cancer, Smith transferred to Tennessee to be closer to home. Given the situation, Smith received a waiver of the one-year waiting period usually associated with a transfer between Division I schools.

(The unfortunate footnote to the story: Smith's dad passed away before the season began -- he never saw his son play for the Vols.)

One Man's Hardship...

Now, it's tough to deny that Smith had a legitimate case for a so-called "hardship" waiver. The same can't be said for a number of new applicants that have popped up since, which has a number of coaches concerned that the "Tyler Smith Rule" is being abused.

For example, take the case of Herb Pope. A highly-regarded power forward, Pope played for New Mexico State as a freshman, but transferred to Seton Hall for the fall semester. Citing family matters and the desire to be closer to his daughter in Aliquippa, Pennsylvania, he's asking for the same sort of waiver that Smith received when transferring to Tennessee. Apparently he's hoping the NCAA doesn't think to check a map; Aliquippa is a six-hour drive from Seton Hall.

The fact that Pope is just one of two "hardship" transfers joining Bobby Gonzalez' Pirates this semester makes the situation even fishier.

As Mike DeCourcy points out in The Sporting News, this puts coaches in a very tough situation; it's tough to complain about these transfers because some of the "special circumstances" really are legit... but if "hardship" waivers become common, competitive balance will require that all coaches attempt to sneak their transfers through without that one-year wait.

It will be very interesting to see how many of this year's applications are approved.

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