If there’s a college basketball capital of America, Storrs, Conn., is as good a candidate as any. In the past 30 years, the university founded in 1881 as the Storrs Agricultural School and today known as the University of Connecticut has seen 15 national championship trophies come home — 11 from the women’s team, four from the men. It’s a run of success no other school can match.
All that had made Connecticut residents college basketball crazy. We can’t get enough of the teams and their stars, from Ray Allen and Rebecca Lobo to today’s standouts like Andre Jackson and Azzi Fudd. Connecticut comes alive for college hoops.
And suddenly, that world has been turned upside-down.
Players have autonomy today that would have been unthinkable in the past. They now have the opportunity to make money off their stardom in ways that never would have been possible just a few years ago. That’s led to more players moving from one school to another, sometimes in search of a better deal for themselves.
It can seem jarring to longtime fans, but much as it might be unfamiliar, in the end it’s better for the players, which is better for the game.
It may take a while for the changes to sink in, though.
College sports, especially at the highest level, have long been grounded in contradictory notions. Fans turn out for the players, but those players don’t get paid. It’s true they’re compensated in the form of a scholarship, but the value of that scholarship, especially for stars, doesn’t come close to matching their market value.
At the same time, while regular college students transfer from one school to another all the time, based on fit or finances or simply preference, athletes who transfer had long been forced to sit out a season before playing again. This helped maintain some sense of order, and certainly made coaches’ lives easier. But it wasn’t fair to players.
All that has changed. The NCAA now allows players to transfer once in their college career without sitting out, meaning players are far more likely to seek out a better situation. It could be moving up a level of competition or moving down, depending on how their career is going.