TransferMania and The Summit League Dilemma

Am I the only one that feels like The Summit League is being gutted of some glory when it comes to transfers in men’s basketball? I don’t want to get an itchy finger even close to the panic button, but it is Transfer Season, and one can get a little woozy and worried seeing star player after star player leave the league we love in search of a better gig.

It is not about The Summit League getting hit harder than any other conference, and it is not a debate about whether there is a transfer epidemic (there is) or whether it is good or bad (it’s bad). This is about the fact that my favorite league is in a weird place and faces a very uncertain future because of the free movement of players in and out of the league.

We are at a tipping point in which The Summit League has become a layover spot for really good players to set down their bags for a year or two, take advantage of the opportunity and the exposure a decent mid-level league provides and then pack up and move on to a supposedly bigger, better destination. The list grows every day, but at this moment, there are more than 700 names in the NCAA Men’s Basketball Transfer Portal, the database devised by the NCAA to track who has been granted a release from their current school and is “available.” (The idea was to get all of this player movement out in the open.)

There are 351 teams x 13 scholarships = 4,563 players – so roughly 15% of all players are “on the market”.

You cannot disregard human nature. Everybody wants to be wanted, and for a lot of young men with sizeable talent and ego to match, that desire to be desired comes with an annual renewal clause. Granted, not all players who transfer are going “up” to a bigger, better Division I program. A lot of players transfer down to DII or move laterally to another similar-level DI. But the high-profile, proven difference makers give a conference or league an identity, and it hurts the most to see them go.

There is an argument that this is a good and a bad for the league at the same time – a thought that the Summit can attract and foster talent that may have been overlooked initially by bigger programs, and it is just the world we live in that eventually those talents will be taken elsewhere.

My rebuttal to that is this: Well, your husband/wife is kind and attractive, and you were married for a year, but then he/she left you for somebody richer, famous and better looking – but at least you had him/her for a year before he/she “transferred,” so in a way that is good and bad, right?


If it is not a crisis, it is at least a dilemma for The Summit League: the fact that really good players will star in the league for a season or two, and then move on. In addition, you have to begin to wonder if players of the caliber of the stars we have seen recently will even sign on with a Summit League team to begin with. Or, you can look at the sky, see it is not actually falling, see that there are still a lot of great players in the league, and look at it like Greg Stemen:

“Gotta keep recruiting talented kids who fit a system. If they’re good enough to get high major offers after a year or two in your program, odds are, they did some great things while they were there and made your team better. Both coaches and players leave for one of two reasons: too good to stay or not good enough to stay.”

“Too good to stay.” I like that. Doesn’t make it better, but I like it.

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