Not one to ever hide his feelings, West Virginia basketball coach Bob Huggins spoke very plainly on what he thinks about a rule proposed by the NCAA that would allow players to have immediate eligibility after transferring.
“This immediate eligibility for a transfer is the worst rule since the [Academic Progress Rate],” Huggins said. “I’m afraid of what’s going to happen because of the immediate eligibility for a transfer, [coaches] are going to start pulling [players] from other teams. In my mind, what the NCAA has done is they’re on the verge of creating a terrible mess.”
Huggins was answering a question about what he makes of several upsets that have already happened in the young 2020-21 college basketball season. Huggins used the example of the Richmond Spiders defeating No. 20 Kentucky over the weekend as proof that the gap between mid-major and high-major teams is shrinking.
“I think it’s guys leaving early,” Huggins said. “You look at Richmond beating Kentucky for instance. Guys who normally [Kentucky coach John Calipari] could bring along, if they don’t get the playing time they want, they transfer… It’s going to get close and closer and close between a mid-major and a high-major. I use [Calipari] as an example, he’s playing a lot of young guys.”
Richmond, who is scheduled to play WVU in the Coliseum on Dec. 13, defeated Kentucky 76-64 on Sunday. While the Spiders boast a roster with 10 juniors and seniors, the Wildcats have just three upperclassmen.
“It comes down to who’s able to keep enough of their previous team,” Huggins explained. “Richmond’s one of the better teams in the country because their guys stayed, they know what they’re doing. They run offense probably better than anybody in the country.”
WVU football coach Neal Brown was asked about this proposed rule earlier this season. His concerns centered around roster management, but he did admit to seeing both sides of the argument, saying that the NCAA is attempting to be more player-friendly.
Huggins, on the other hand, said that this rule could have made it so that Da’Sean Butler and Kevin Jones, two of the best Mountaineers in recent history, might not have developed into the players they ended up being.
“With guys leaving early, guys transferring for immediate eligibility, I think the days of you taking a, say, Da’Sean Butler [are over],” Huggins said. “Da’Sean Butler wasn’t recruited very heavily from what I understand. He came in and [former WVU coach] John [Beilein] did a great job with him and we had him for two years and all of a sudden he’s a pro. Kevin Jones wasn’t that heavily recruited and because he stayed the course and worked and did what he was asked, look how good he became and what he’s been able to do with it since.”
According to the databases of 247Sports and rivals, Butler had just two scholarship offers coming out of high school in 2006, Jones had seven in 2008. Both Butler and Jones started out in bench roles with the Mountaineers, before developing into the all-conference players they left as.
Huggins said, in modern college basketball, being able to keep teams together and develop them is almost as important as having a bunch of talent to begin with.
“I don’t know, with what’s going on legislatively, how you do that,” Huggins said.