Since Matt Margenthaler became the men’s basketball coach at Minnesota State 20 years ago, he’s been pretty good at supplementing the roster with transfers.
But Margenthaler thinks the NCAA has made transferring too easy now, creating “free agency” during every offseason.
“Everything starts at the top with the Power 5 conferences,” Margenthaler said. “The mid-majors start feeding the majors, then the low majors feed the mid-majors and the high Division II programs feed the low majors. It’s terrible for college basketball.”
Some of Minnesota State’s best players over the last two decades have transferred in from Division I programs.
Jamel Staten came to Minnesota State after two seasons at Northern Illinois, while Luke Anderson came from Montana State, Jefferson Mason from Northern Colorado, Jermaine Brown from Bradley, Zach Monaghan from South Dakota State, Atila Santos from Northern Iowa and Travis Nelson from Wyoming.
Kelby Kramer, whose sophomore season ended with the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference’s newcomer of the year award, came to Minnesota State after one season at Montana.
It wasn’t long ago that if a player wasn’t happy sitting at the end of a Division I bench, the best option would be to find a Division II program where sitting out wouldn’t be necessary. But the rules have changed.
Junior college players are eligible immediately at NCAA programs if they earn their academic degree; if not, they may be eligible at Division II and Division III programs but not Division I.
The NCAA allows “free” transfers to players who are moving down, from Division I to Division II to Division III. In Division II and III, players are allowed a one-time “free” transfer if they move laterally.
The Northern Sun has a rule that if you transfer within the conference, you have to sit out one season.
The “grad transfer” has become more popular recently, meaning if a player achieves an academic degree at any university and still has playing eligibility, that player is eligible immediately at any other university.
An NCAA committee is voting this week on a proposal that will allow any player to transfer to any level, one time without penalty, as a response to the current COVID-19 pandemic. The proposal could remain in effect after this offseason.
“This year, there were almost 1,000 players who entered the (transfer) portal,” Margenthaler said. “Kids have all this time on their hands, and they think it’s cool to enter the portal. No one wants to fight through adversity; life isn’t easy. Young people think the grass is always greener somewhere else.”
Minnesota State had three players leave from last season’s team: Corvon Seales to Kirkwood Community College, Tre Baumgardner to Ashland University and Frankie Mack is undecided.
Zach McDermott, a guard from Northern Oklahoma State, and Cody Baer, a forward from Carl Sandburg College who will redshirt next season, have transferred to Minnesota State from junior colleges.
Margenthaler said last week that he would like to add one or two more transfers before next season, but that process has been slowed by travel restrictions that prohibit campus visits.
When Matt Fletcher left Bethany Lutheran last month to take the job at Concordia-St. Paul, he added a couple of transfers, trying to speed up the rebuilding process for a program that had posted only five winning seasons in the last 20 years.
While at Bethany, Fletcher used transfers — such as Trenton Krueger, Jake Dale, Trevin Nelson and Brian Smith — to transform the Vikings into an NCAA tournament team.’
“In some cases, it’s players that we recruited coming back to us,” Fletcher said. “Any time you can sprinkle in some difference-makers, it puts your program in a better position to win.”
Fletcher said the propensity for players to transfer puts pressure on coaches to be more honest with recruits.
“The No. 1 reason kids transfer is that they are told one thing, and when the get to campus, it doesn’t happen,” Fletcher said.
At Concordia-St. Paul, Fletcher has added a pair of transfers from Division I South Dakota, guard Caden Hoffman and forward Matt Johns.
Fletcher said he’s not sure how the ease of transferring will affect the Division II game, but he also knows he needs to change with the times.
“It used to be if a player transferred, that was a red flag that there was some problem,” Fletcher said. “There’s still some risk when you take a transfer, but that’s why we’re looking for players who have three years (of eligibility). It’s become more acceptable to transfer; that’s the new normal.”
Follow Chad Courrier on Twitter @ChadCourrier.