Big South Restricting Messiah Thompson proves some college basketball transfer rules still need to be reworked

In the old days, college basketball players – unlike most other NCAA-sanctioned sports – could not be immediately eligible to play as a first-time transfer. Furthermore, it was customary for transfer within the same league to be completely prohibited.

So the NCAA changed its stance on that in 2021.

Thank God that era is over, right?


There are still two leagues that prohibit intra-conference movement, restricting all of their student-athletes from transferring within their leagues without having to stay an entire year. These leagues: Big South and SoCon.

This brings us to the Messiah Thompson dilemma. He has spent the last three seasons playing for Campbell Fighting Camels. His second season was the best. Thompson, a 5-foot point guard, averaged 8.4 points and 2.1 assists on 40% 3-point shooting. He could have been transferred a year ago. He debated it. He decided to stay. His junior season didn’t do so well (8.1 points, 2.0 assists on 32% 3-point shooting with slightly less game time). On March 16, Thompson put his name on the transfer portal and two schools initially contacted him. One of them quickly lost contact after another point guard committed in a hurry. Thompson watched the NCAA Tournament come and go and waited to see if any other schools would find him with genuine interest.

On April 12th, three more contacted him, including Radford… which is in the Big South. This means that, as of now, Thompson cannot transfer there and automatically qualify to play.

“That surprised me,” Thompson said. “Right now, I want to go somewhere that’s wanted, and I’m not saying that Radford is the only one that wants me or that I want to go, I just want to have them as an option.”

Radford could be Thompson’s best opportunity. Thompson’s father Jermaine told CBS Sports that Radford applied for a waiver on Monday. The deadline for the exemption request to be analyzed is normally two weeks. Will the Great South approve the resignation? League commissioner Kyle Kallander told CBS Sports that a number of athletes in various sports in recent years have applied for an intra-league waiver.

All were rejected.

“We continue to evaluate the rule,” Kallander said, later adding, “we are reviewing [it] in a different light than we have in the past.”

That might be encouraging, but Kallander also said he would not comment on the specifics of any eligibility case. Why is this rule still in effect to begin with? A source tells CBS Sports that many league presidents want to rescind the Big South policy — they just don’t have all the votes yet.

“Obviously we evaluated this very closely and we had a lot of discussions about it last year when the NCAA changed the transfer rule,” Kallander said. “One of the great things about the Big South is that we are very collegial. There is a lot of mutual respect and a lot of working together. There was concern on the part of our presidents that ending the intra-conference transfer would affect that. There was concern about hunting stealth, the relationships between schools and teams. There can certainly be legitimate reasons for student-athletes to make these moves other than just wanting to move from team to team, so ultimately our presidents decided not to make a change at this time due to these concerns. .”

The Big South will meet again on June 2nd and could very well change the rule this year. But Thompson can’t wait another seven weeks. He can’t wait for two more, lest his opportunities in other shows be taken up by other players on the portal who will soon commit. To be clear, Campbell signed off on the transfer. Radford obviously wants Thompson. This shouldn’t be complicated.

“Given the current environment, it’s certainly worth looking at our process and how we’re evaluating these exemptions,” Kallander said. “We’re going to talk to our compliance committee about what those extenuating circumstances are, should there be more specifics around that with the current environment?”

To be clear: the era of restricting transfers for the first time under any circumstances should be over. It’s a wonder this is a thing that still needs to be addressed in 2022. The Big South looks bad here, no matter if the player is a Campbell hooper or a bench player in women’s football or men’s lacrosse. Now Thompson is not Radford or failure. He’s not even determined to go there. He is also considering some other schools, but Radford also has a lot to offer. He would like to legitimately consider school as a choice, but he won’t if he has to change his shirt.

To hear Messiah explain this, Radford may be better equipped to rate him because he’s played against – and won – this team multiple times over the past few seasons.

“I want to have options in my recruiting and now I feel like – I don’t know where I’m going – but I feel like Radford is a good fit for me,” Thompson said. “For the Big South, this is the only one of the conferences that has this rule, I don’t think it’s fair. It’s been proven that kids are successful at other conferences. KD Johnson moved from Georgia to Auburn and he had a great year. conference could be better for a kid because these coaches know their game better. These coaches have seen me for three years. They know me better than any other coach from a different conference.”

This is a layup. Campbell is good at this, Radford is good at this, almost every other conference operates under new guidelines. The Big South isn’t trying to be in stories like this, but here we are. The only thing worse would be rejecting Thompson’s resignation and willingly opting for the athlete’s outdated thinking and powerlessness.

“How quickly – that’s my biggest concern,” said Jermaine Thompson. “He’s out of school at the end of April. It’s very urgent that this happens soon. We don’t have another month.”

The league may return its decision on or before May 2, but Kallander later clarified that while the waiver process is usually two weeks, there is no guarantee the window will be fulfilled.

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