Photo credit: thespun.com
Following University of Alabama redshirt freshman quarterback Blake Barnett’s decision to transfer last month, there was a lot of controversy surrounding his choice to leave four games into the season.
Regarding midseason transfers, head coach Nick Saban says, “There’s certain pride people have in competition. There’s certain things I was taught growing up about not quitting and seeing things through. I think If I’d come home and told my dad that I was going to quit the team, I think he’d have kicked me out of the house.”
Barnett, a five-star recruit from California, started Alabama’s season opener against the University of Southern California before he was pulled in favor of freshman Jalen Hurts. Maybe it’s the timing in which Barnett left rather than the point of him leaving that has upset many supporters of the Crimson Tide. However, since Barnett decided to leave when he did, he will be eligible to play at another FBS program during this time next year if he meets the minimum credits and GPA, and graduates from the junior college he will currently attend.
On the other hand, it seems hypocritical of Coach Saban to criticize players transferring midseason when he left the Miami Dolphins – with three seasons remaining on his contract – in January 2007 to coach at Alabama. His departure was probably most shocking because of the statement he made in December 2006, amid a 6-10 Dolphins season: “I guess I have to say it: I’m not going to be the Alabama coach.”
Well, everyone knows how this story ended. I can’t stress enough how sports mirror society. Just as there’s a double standard between men and women and whites and people of color in society, there’s a double standard between coaches and athletes in sports. For example, a coach can leave one Division I program for another and coach right away while some athletes (depending on their sport) have to sit out unless they are able to attend a junior college before transferring back to Division I. Furthermore, a coach can leave one team for another midseason to either enhance his career or to make more money and not receive as much – if any – backlash as players do.
As a collegiate athlete, your sport is your livelihood so you have to do what’s best for you no matter what other’s think. Commentators and fans only see a player transferring or the end result of a situation. They don’t see what’s going on during spring training, individual workouts or practices; they have a partial perspective of what has occurred.
Hypothetically speaking, if my goal is to play professional football, I’d rather take my chances being a key player on a good or decent team opposed to being invisible on a great team. Some people may say Barnett didn’t give himself a chance, but if anyone has been watching Alabama football, Hurts’ position as the starting quarterback is pretty much solidified, unless he gets injured or violates NCAA rules. However, time is something no one can get back, especially a collegiate athlete; so why should Barnett wait around for Hurts’ downfall while he fades away himself? The quarterback position isn’t one that’s easily shared like the positions of running back or wide receiver.
Let’s further discuss the meaning of “competition” in the context of college athletics. Speaking from personal experience, it’s no secret that coaches show favoritism to certain players; once they have their minds made up who’s going to start, things rarely change. The reserves’ “competitiveness” at this point isn’t for a position, but to make the starters better. From there, it’s all about waiting on your moment. This may not be the case at Alabama, but it is happening within sports programs across the country.
Things may not be better for Barnett where ever he lands; sometimes the problem can be the individual and nothing will change until he or she changes. At the same time, people shouldn’t be mad at Barnett or any other athlete for taking a chance and taking control of their careers and lives because there aren’t any do overs.
For example, it’s my humble opinion that women’s college basketball standout Diamond DeShields should have stayed at the University of North Carolina. She entered college as the Naismith Girl’s High School Player of the Year and surely lived up to the hype. She averaged 18 points per game her freshman year, was espnW’s Freshman of the Year and led the University of North Carolina to a 27-10 record as well as the regional finals in the NCAA Tournament. After watching her play with the Lady Vols during the 2015-16 season, she didn’t look like the same player; however, she seemed to find her niche as the season progressed and I believe she will continue to get better over the next couple of years. Although she didn’t transfer in the middle of the season, I’m sure there are others who shared the same sentiments as I did regarding her decision to leave UNC.
On the other hand, DeShields did an interview with espn.com following her decision to depart UNC and she slightly broke down when making reference to her reason for leaving; I interpreted this as it being something personal between her and UNC head coach Sylvia Hatchell, and the best thing was not to discuss it with the public. What coaches, parents, fans and other stakeholders in athletic programs have to realize is student-athletes must have mental and emotional stability to be at their best physically. So, the next time you leave your current job for another, move to another residence or switch churches, ask yourself “am I quitting or I am I transferring?”