By Pat Harty
IOWA CITY, Iowa – Contrary to popular opinion, Fran McCaffery isn’t opposed to recruiting graduate transfers.
He has told me that before and has looked into some graduate transfers during his time as the Iowa men’s basketball coach, which dates back to 2010.
If the timing, the circumstances and the fit is right, McCaffery would gladly add a graduate transfer to his roster.
But that just isn’t the case right now.
Iowa’s roster for next season appears to be set with exception to the uncertainty surrounding Tyler Cook, who is testing the NBA Draft process as a sophomore.
The 6-foot-9 Cook wants to play in the NBA sooner than later, but there is no guarantee that he will be selected in the 2018 NBA Draft, and I’m hearing from sources close to his situation that Cook would rather return to Iowa for his junior season than play professionally overseas.
Sophomore shooting guard Isaiah Moss is also testing the NBA Draft process, but the 6-5 Moss has told McCaffery that he will return to Iowa for his junior season if he isn’t selected in the two-run draft. Moss is considered a long shot at best to be taken in the draft, so it’s almost certain that he will return to Iowa for his junior season.
Iowa would have 12 players on scholarship next season if Moss and Cook both return, and with the addition of incoming freshmen Joe Wieskamp and C.J. Fredrick.
McCaffery announced last week that his son, redshirt freshman guard Connor McCaffery, would be put on scholarship for the 2018-19 academic year now that two scholarships are available in the wake of Ahmad Wagner and Brady Ellingson both having recently left the program.
So it’s not that Fran McCaffery has a depleted roster or a lack of depth, considering that men’s collegiate basketball teams only get 13 scholarships.
The makeup of his roster is what obviously leaves something to be desired based on Iowa’s 14-19 record from this past season, including a miserable 4-14 mark in the conference.
Given how much Iowa struggled this past season, it makes sense that McCaffery would pursue a graduate transfer this spring.
But it also makes sense why he wouldn’t because of that same roster and because of what the graduate transfer rule has evolved in to.
The rule was originally created in order to allow players who graduate within four years, and in good academic standing, to advance their education at a different school that offers graduate courses to assist in that process.
It now seems that most graduate transfers are looking for a perfect fit from a basketball standpoint, with academics only a secondary concern. Some treat it more like a season-long audition for the NBA, but that isn’t what the rule was designed to be, nor is that approach allowed at the University of Iowa, or so I’m told.
A graduate transfer would be required to attend classes for the entire second semester at the University of Iowa, whereas that apparently isn’t the case at some other schools.
So if you’re a graduate transfer looking to improve your chances of playing in the NBA more than your academic situation, a second semester without the demands of academics would be more attractive than having to attend classes until mid-May at Iowa.
The broad interpretation of the graduate transfer rule has created an unequal playing field in which Iowa appears to be at a disadvantage, by its own choosing, of course.
And while that might frustrate some Iowa fans, why would you criticize a school that emphasizes and enforces rules that value academics?
The NCAA should even the playing field by not allowing the graduate transfer rule to be abused or misinterpreted for the sake of winning. A graduate transfer shouldn’t be allowed to enroll for the second semester and then stay eligible throughout the season without attending class.
I admire UI officials for standing firm on this rule, even if it comes at the expense of landing a talented player.