You know what would be, like, a total buzzkill? Signing a scholarship to play collegiate basketball at a major institution, making good on your end of the commitment, and then finding out after a year — or two or three — that, hey, thanks for coming, but we kind of need that scholarship for someone vastly more talented now. Would you mind transferring? This is where we the school will kindly remind you that your scholarship is a one-year, merit-based, renewable document, and we are under no obligation to extend it for another year should we choose not to. Any questions?
Harsh, bro. Harsh. The practice of sending players away via transfer to make room for scholarships is called a runoff, and it happens more frequently than it should — which is to say it shouldn’t happen at all.
Typically, runoff players transfer quietly, moving on from their schools with little protest. Sometimes, though, a player or a player’s family gets angry about what they see as a raw deal. Sometimes they talk to the media. These are important moments; they draw the curtain back on one of college basketball’s most unfair, exploitative policies, and they’re worth discussing when they arrive.
Last year’s biggest such moment came when Kentucky coach John Calipari oversaw the transfer of seven players leftover from Billy Gillispie’s tenure at the school. Several of those players publicly claimed they forced out of the program, while Calipari insisted that he merely told those players they likely wouldn’t get much playing time if they decided to stay at UK.