By Scotty Mincher
Here at YSN, we take pride in working together as a team. In modern-day sports though, One could certainly make the case that sports have become more about individuals than teams. To use the NFL as an example, It’s pretty easy to look at the Browns trade for Odell Beckham Jr. You can go back to times after Cleveland officially acquired Beckham and the press conference. At which he stated that playing with his best friend wide receiver Jarvis Landry was like a dream come true considering the two are childhood buddies and played at LSU together. If you fast forward to now the Browns, unfortunately, have underachieved at just 6-7 and are on the outside looking in when it comes to the AFC playoff picture and there are reports by Fox Sports’s Jay Glazer that Beckham wants out of Cleveland. We don’t know what Odell’s thinking and how valid those reports are, But it does beg an important question in today’s sports world. Does the modern-day player value the concept of a team or free agency more? It’s become extremely rare now in days that a player stays with one team his or her entire career like Derek Jeter did during a 19-year tenure with the New York Yankees. In sports, a free agent is a player who is not bound by a contract and so is eligible to join any team. There are three different types of free agents in sports, the unrestricted free agent, the restricted free agent, and the undrafted free agent. Even though I believe that free agency can add excitement for sports and sports fans, In many cases it has killed the thirst to root for an entire team of players and increased the thirst to follow and root for players or brands alone. In the NBA a fitting example would be the career of Lebron James who is a once in a lifetime talent that’s called Cleveland home but has played for two other cities and won two titles for Miami and one for his hometown Cavaliers.
Another good example would be Bryce Harper in MLB leaving Washington for Philly in free agency while signing a contract for ungodly money. If you’re a Bryce Harper fan you’re happy that he got his big payday and if you’re a Washington Nationals fan you’re even more elated your team won a World Series without him. I’m not saying that Harper didn’t care about his teammates or the city of Philadelphia and the fans but the free agency just like the name does give players freedom On top of the fact that an enormous payday will always be enticing. In the case of Lebron, someone who’s made way more money just off endorsements than most people make in their lifetime, It seems to be more about the location and the glamour and prestige of Los Angeles along with the increased ability to keep another star to play with him because of it. Lebron probably still has a special place for Cleveland in his heart, but everybody likes having options.
When I break it down I feel free agency is good from an individual perspective but bad from a team perspective and so far, the grass on the other side hasn’t been as green as James and Harper envisioned it would be. Who knows if they’ll eventually be content with everything from an in-game point of view but year one for James and Harper with their new teams didn’t go super smooth, As they both missed the playoffs and Harper’s team won a championship without him, they still have their money, fame, and fans but there’s a lot of work to be done on an individual and team level to get them to where they wanna be. In my opinion, a player that transfers to another school at the college level is partially different. In college, if you transfer to another school you must complete one academic year in residence at the new school before you can play for or receive travel expenses from the new school unless you qualify for a transfer exception or waiver. Because of this even with student-athletes transferring to different schools being common, It’s not as common as a pro athlete leaving for a new team via free agency. In some cases like with Ohio State’s Justin Fields, you may not have as many options like a pro athlete would in free agency because of living expenses and upperclassmen being ahead of you on the depth chart at quarterback, which is the hardest position to start at in football, and arguably the hardest position in all of sports. I think when it comes to Fields it ended up working out well for his former team, That being Georgia and his current team Ohio State. In his true freshman season at Georgia in 2018, Fields served as the backup to starting quarterback Jake Fromm. Following Georgia’s loss to Alabama in the 2018 SEC Championship Game, Fields announced that he intended to transfer schools. On January 4, 2019, Fields announced his intent to transfer to Ohio State. Fields, who would normally be required to sit out for one year due to NCAA transfer rules, sought a waiver to be able to play immediately for Ohio State. Fields enlisted the help of attorney Thomas Mars, who helped secure immediate eligibility for several transfers from Ole Miss in 2018, including quarterback Shea Patterson. Mars and Fields argued that Fields should be granted a waiver for immediate eligibility due to an NCAA guideline that waives the waiting period for athletes with “documented mitigating circumstances that are outside the student-athlete’s control and directly impact the health, safety, and well-being of the student-athlete.” Fields was subject to an incident at Georgia in which a Bulldogs baseball player used a racial slur against Fields. This was believed to be the main incident constituting Fields’ claim of “mitigating circumstances”, although the full contents of the waiver request were never made public. On February 8, 2019, Fields was granted immediate eligibility for the 2019 season by the NCAA. All in all, I think it’s worked out well for both football programs and universities and has helped at least slow the talk of dynasties at Clemson and Alabama. Fields has led the Buckeyes to the college football playoff this year, and Jake Fromm had the Bulldogs in the playoff conversation, So a guy transferring schools in college can be beneficial in numerous ways differing the free agency a lot of times in the pros where the player reaps all the rewards. The last stop we’ll make for this story is on the high school level. High school sports are too affected by the ability of a student-athlete to transfer. According to ohsaa.org If a student transfers at any time after the fifth day of the student’s ninth-grade year or after having established eligibility before the start of school by playing in a contest (scrimmage, preview/jamboree, Foundation game or regular season/tournament contest), the student shall be eligible, insofar as transfer is concerned, ONLY until the first 50% of the maximum allowable varsity regular-season contests (including all scrimmages, preview/jamboree/Foundation games) have been completed in those sports in which the student participated (participation being defined as playing in a contest) during the 12 months immediately preceding this transfer. This transfer consequence shall remain in effect until the one-year anniversary of the date of enrollment in the school to which the student transferred, at which time the student is no longer considered a transfer student.
All of this, along with open enrollment has a major effect on high school athletics because of the scenario where you could have too many players go out for one sport or not enough. I think that the OHSAA regulations in more recent years, have been effective and brought parity to an all-time high on the high school level and while no system is perfect and we still have our issues and hot button topics like open enrollment, smaller schools are making noise like never before. You can take Springfield Tigers football being the state runner up as an example, showing at times the little engine can get the job done and that on the other side the grass isn’t always greener!