Former Duke basketball star and current ESPN college hoops analyst Jay Bilas doesn't shy from voicing his opinions, particularly when they are centered around colleges taking advantage of student athletes.
In his most recent stand, Bilas is calling out a few ACC schools for the ridiculous restrictions they place on players who decide to transfer.
The former Blue Devils' star isn't afraid to call out his alma mater, either, considering they are one of the schools in question.
What Duke is saying: Sirk isn't good enough to play for Duke, but too good to play against Duke. Coaches can take "secrets," players can't.
— Jay Bilas (@JayBilas) May 23, 2017
Here's the deal. At the end of February, Duke quarterback Thomas Sirk announced he would be transferring to use his final season of eligibility with another program. The Blue Devils' brass granted Sirk's request, but prohibited him from transferring to any ACC school or Army, Baylor, N.C. Central and Northwestern (Duke's out of conference football opponents in 2017).
The theory is simple on the surface. Duke doesn't want Sirk to go join an ACC foe where he can share in-depth information about the Blue Devils' offense, defense and other "insider secrets." The same applies to the other programs Duke is playing next season.
As CBS college basketball expert Matt Norlander points out, there are transfers happening every year at schools throughout the country and 99 percent of those are handled relatively well and behind the scenes. This doesn't make the process right, though. Schools have complete control in the matter and when it's a good player (or big-name quarterback) they can literally choose where the player can and can't go.
It's not like Sirk was slated to be the starter heading into the 2017 season and the Duke football staff was furious about his decision to leave. He's a player who was dealt a brutal hand in Durham but believes he's good enough to start somewhere else for a final collegiate season. There's no quarterback competition at Duke — it's 100 percent clear Daniel Jones is the starter and Sirk would have been limited to holding a clipboard in his final year of eligibility.
Heading into the 2016 campaign, it looked like Sirk was finally back to full-health after rehabbing from a severe injury to his Achilles tendon the season before. All signs pointed to him being the starter, but in an August practice just before the 2016 opener, Sirk tore his Achilles once again. It was the worst-case scenario for the redshirt senior, who led the Blue Devils in both rushing and passing in 2015 and earned Co-MVP honors in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl victory over Indiana.
As Sirk watched on the sidelines, Jones — a true freshman — took full advantage of the opportunity he was given. He threw for 2.836 yards and 16 touchdowns in 12 games and most folks who cover the ACC feel like the rising sophomore is poised for a breakout 2017 campaign.
So why would Duke want to limit Sirk's options when it clearly knows he won't see the field in his current situation? Does David Cutcliffe and company really believe he's on a mission to sabotage the Blue Devils and share their deepest, darkest secrets with other teams? It's silly.
Bilas has been equally vocal toward Pittsburgh, another ACC school making headlines because of transfer restrictions. Cameron Johnson — who is considered an elite talent in the college basketball world — is transferring after already graduating from Pitt. He's the poster boy for a student athlete doing it the right way, yet his former program is making the process overly difficult, especially if Johnson decides to play at North Carolina (you know, the best ACC team that plays in the same conference as the Panthers).
The takeaway…Sirk and Johnson are being treated as paid employees subject to a unilaterally imposed non-compete provision. That's wrong.
— Jay Bilas (@JayBilas) May 23, 2017
Kudos to Bilas for shining light on to another flaw in the NCAA that isn't talked about enough. These kids aren't getting compensated and have no contractual obligation to stay with any program for their entire collegiate career. I'm not going to get on my high-horse and bash Duke and Pitt because they are just two schools of many that are taking advantage of the rules the NCAA has in place.
Of course it would be annoying if kids just started transferring left and right to in-conference programs for various reasons and I'm not advocating for that. All I'm saying is the current system is flawed, especially when it comes to graduate transfers. The NCAA needs to sit down and come up with well-thought, smart system that is beneficial to both players and schools.
Do I think it will happen anytime soon? No. The NCAA hasn't given us any reason to believe they will take a proactive approach to fixing their various mishaps, but if Bilas and other big names keep speaking out, a conversation can at least get started.