A little off-topic, but this was quite the day in baseball for trades. In 24-48 hours we will see the awkward sight of Manny Ramirez in a Dodger uniform, Ken Griffey Jr. as a White Sock (singular), and Pudge Rodriguez in pinstripes.
One of the things that makes college sports unique is that you can’t trade anyone. It’s partly why we go so nuts over recruiting. Once a guy commits, you have him for four to five years. It’s done.
Unless he/she transfers, of course. But even then NCAA rules work against the student athlete by making them sit out a year and lose that same amount of time in eligibility. So transfers are relatively rare, and usually have more to do with coaching changes or player unhappiness than they do with stocking up for a championship.
In college, you are forced to win one of two ways. You can win by recruiting (USC football, among others), or win by player development (WSU basketball, among others). Usually it’s a mix of both that breeds a champion.
The one thing you can’t do is trade. It’s against the rules to make that instantaneous move that can build a contender or rebuild a team for the future. Of course it would be totally ridiculous to trade a NCAA athlete, seeing as how they are in classes, settled into their college towns, and not making anything more than tuition and some living expenses.
Still, it’s fun to think of what might happen if you could trade a college athlete. I know a few Cougar fans who would’ve gladly given up Alex Brink to a contender last year in exchange for a few freshmen prospects. Or how about this year: trade a couple of young players to fill some holes at defensive back, or linebacker, or – let’s face it – pretty much anywhere on defense. We could’ve traded Arkelon Hall to Memphis before he flunked out and received a nice return for him. Even in a contending year – a 1997 or a 2002 – wouldn’t it have been great to poach a player or two from a down-and-out team in exchange for a couple four-star commits? That wouldn’t be so bad.
Anyway, it’s a ridiculous thought, so we may as well focus on the positives of not having trades in college. For example, USC can’t get any stronger than it already is. Also, we get to know our players. Even if it is just for four or five short years. We get to watch talented freshmen like Will Derting or Michael Bumpus captivate us for three more seasons. There’s no risk of a Bill Bavasi-type GM trading away all your talented freshmen for seniors with “veteran experience”; who just end up driving your school into the ground and graduating four months later. And the player actually has a choice of where they want to start school, and where they want to finish it.
Really, that’s the best part. Once a Coug, always a Coug. It’s the common thread that links us all, and allows us to verbally assault people like Carl Bonnell who choose to go somewhere else. As funny as it would’ve been to see Alex Brink in a Duck jersey after Dixon went down, it just wouldn’t have been right. We need a little solidarity in sports.
Otherwise you just end up with Ken Griffey Junior in a White Sox jersey.