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New transfer proposal doesn't faze ETSU's Forbes

Joe Avento • Updated Feb 27, 2020 at 5:46 PM

A new NCAA proposal giving athletes more freedom to transfer schools is causing some consternation among college basketball coaches, but East Tennessee State’s Steve Forbes doesn’t seem overly concerned.

The plan, which would allow basketball and football players to transfer one time without sitting out a year like they have to do now, is expected to be presented to the Division I Council in April. It would go into effect for the 2020-21 academic year.

“Coaches can come and go, so players should probably have the same right,” Forbes said. “I understand why the players want to be treated as normal students as far as transferring. I don’t have a problem with that.

“I know it’s a change and I know some people aren’t going to like it, but that’s just the way life is. There’s been a lot of changes in my career and we’ve just had to adjust. That’s what’ll happen.”

The rule would affect football, men’s and women’s basketball and men’s hockey. All other sports already have a one-time transfer exemption.

Forbes says he doesn’t necessarily agree with coaches who predict the new rule, if adopted, would create a wild, free agent-type atmosphere in college basketball where the top programs would only get stronger at the expense of mid-majors.

“I don’t think you can say it’s only going to hurt one level,” he said. “I think it’s going to affect every level. I think, yes, there’s going to be some mid-major programs lose some players. But I also think there are going to be some guys that are talented at the high-major level that aren’t playing the minutes they want to play that will transfer now that they don’t have to sit.

“If you don’t have a good relationship with your players, I think it would be a real problem.”

As a former junior college head coach, Forbes has experience with free transfers. Junior college players play only two years, but they are allowed to transfer to another junior college during that time without sitting out.

“I’ve dealt with it before,” he said. “It puts a premium on having a relationship with your players. If you don’t, it’s probably going to be hard.”

When Forbes took over the ETSU program five years ago, he began to build his new team with players transferring from NCAA Division I schools and junior colleges. He’s brought in players from schools such as Indiana, Missouri, Cincinnati, Wichita State and Oklahoma State and has gained a reputation of being a guy not afraid to use his connections throughout college basketball to lure useful players who want out of their current situation. Currently, Ledarrius Brewer, who appears to be one of the most talented players on the team, is sitting out after transferring from Southeast Missouri State last year.

“We have some experience in doing it,” Forbes said. “Some of the other schools have gotten to where that’s how they’ve been building their roster as well, so it’s case by case, player by player.”

Forbes says he’d like to see two conditions included if the proposal passes — a deadline and a strict rule to prevent schools from actively recruiting another school’s players.

“I think that there has to be some kind of deadline that if you’re in the portal before the deadline, fine,” he said. “Once after a certain deadline, you have to sit out. I think it would be hard to replace your whole roster at the last minute.

“And one thing I think you have to be careful of is other schools tampering. If that’s going to happen, I think there has to be some severe penalties. They can’t do it. They shouldn’t do it, but there’s always ways around that. They’ll go through third parties. If it’s proven that they did that, they need to be penalized.”

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