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Jay Bilas discusses contradictions in the NCAA's treatment of student-athletes

In Part I of our interview with ESPN college basketball analyst Jay Bilas, he discussed his perspective on the controversy surrounding Leticia Romero's transfer from Kansas State. In Part II, he discusses how the situation at Kansas State reflects broader contradictions in NCAA policy.


SA: What do you think of the juxtaposition of Kansas State's position with Romero, when their new women's basketball coach left TCU to take their position which is in the same conference?

JB: It's yet another contradiction and it's NCAA policy. But also, I think reasonable people look at that and say, ‘Hey, that's not fair.' It's funny how the TCU to Kansas State move for Jeff Mittie, they don't look upon that as trade secrets or, ‘Hey, we don't want to compete against a former coach, so you can't go within conference.' But all of a sudden, when a player wants to transfer, they don't ever want to see that player again, so you can't transfer within the conference. Like, she didn't have the formula for Coca-Cola for crying out loud. She didn't have trade secrets; she didn't even play for this guy. So, what did she know about Kansas State that would give an advantage to a conference opponent? It's all ridiculous.

This was a vindictive, petty move by Kansas State. One of the things - I don't know how many people picked up on this - but early on, I didn't look into the Angel Rodriguez transfer a couple of years ago when he transferred to Miami because, I didn't think another transfer was necessarily relevant as to what Kansas State did in this case. This is my understanding of what happened: so Angel Rodriguez wanted to transfer after Frank Martin left. They went to him and said, ‘Look, give us another year and if you don't like it after the year, we'll give you your release.' So, he wound up transferring to Miami. Romero said that they offered her the same deal, and she said ‘No.' She felt that was unfair to ask her to do another year, to see if she liked the new guy. She didn't like him, she felt uncomfortable right away after giving it a little bit of a chance.

Well, she had said to the press - she told them about the deal and said, ‘I felt like that was blackmail.' English is a second language for her, maybe even the third - ["blackmail"] was not the best term to use. That really angered Currie and it angered Kansas State; I think it ratcheted up the temperature of things.

You would think the adults in the room would say, ‘It's not that big of a deal, let's the find the right result here, she wants to leave.' Like, why would you want to somebody to stay in your program that doesn't want to be there? She wasn't going to stay -- her choice was, go to a school she doesn't want to go to or go to junior college for a year and then get re-recruited. That's a waste of a year for a young kid and what's the upside of that? You're not protecting the enterprise; you're not sending a message to other recruits that this could happen to you if God forbid (you) leave your school of choice -- the whole thing was so ridiculous and wrong. And, I didn't hear anyone -- if I had heard any of my colleagues' say, ‘You know I understand this, this is OK' maybe I would have thought twice about it - but the only people that defended Kansas State were Kansas State people. That doesn't mean they're wrong, but I thought they were wrong. And, I didn't anyone outside of Kansas State folks tried to defend what they were doing - not one person.

Swish Appeal: How much reform needs to take place when it comes to the definition of student-athlete?

JB: Well, I think they need to be viewed as what the NCAA continues to say they are, which is a student. No student, other than an athlete, is restricted from going wherever they want and accepting aid. Really this is about your freedom of movement and your ability to accept a scholarship somewhere else -- no other student is restricted that way.

The truth is that these players are assets - they're valuable assets, I get that. But, if they're assets they need to be valued as such, and they need to be allowed to capitalize on their value. Eventually, the schools and the NCAA - which are one in the same - are having it both ways. They say, ‘Well, they're just a student, so we don't have to give them anything, we can control everything they do.' But, then we treat them like employees and we enforce a non-compete provision against them at our leisure. And, it's just wrong.

If there were like five or six players that wanted to transfer (from Kansas State) - all (wanting) to go to Northern Colorado because the whole staff went - I could understand that. You could say, ‘Wait a minute, we're going to get to the bottom of this, this doesn't smell right.' You got one person who came from Spain -- and we are going to make her an example? It was just wrong.

Like, I think deep down, they know they were wrong, they don't want to admit it but they know they were wrong. And, for John Currie and for President Kirk Schultz -- I'm sure is a great guy, I don't know him, I've seen him in his public statements, he looks like a really nice fellow, I'm sure he's a good administrator but who knows? - he was one of the presidents that were with Mark Emmert at the Final Four press conference along with Bob Bowslby and others. And, he's been out in front on student-athlete welfare. Well, what credibility does a leader have on student-athlete welfare when you've taken that stance against one of your own?

To me, Shultz's credibility on that is diminished and John Currie's credibility is diminished. I don't like saying that - it's true, I think their credibility is compromised in this whole fiasco.

SA: You mentioned "diminished credibility" - how bad do those two aforementioned look because of their stance they took against a freshman women's basketball player from Spain?

JB: I think it was (not only) shameful but unconscionable. And, just going to back to what their athlete handbook says on transfers: A release will not be granted without undue burden on the athlete. The handbook says, ‘We're not granting you a transfer unless you meet this high burden.' Then Currie tweets out in April - I think it was like April 22, right about the time I met with him in Los Angeles - he tweets out, ‘It is rare that a release is not granted and RARE occasions that we have denied a student-athlete transfer release it has been because of concerns about outside tampering, undue influence by third parties or procedures not being followed in an honest and forthright manner.'

So, basically he was saying: ‘We either got an unethical former staff or we've got a lying athlete -- or both.' And, that's what he left out there. That was unethical and inappropriate and it contradicted their written policy. So if you are looking at that, you're saying, ‘Wait a minute, so what's the policy?' We don't grant it and then the AD says, ‘It's rare that we don't grant it.' So, how is any reasonable person supposed to navigate that? I'm supposed to navigate; ‘Now we know if you give us a list of schools, you're limiting yourself. If you appeal, you're limiting yourself.' They say you have to appeal, but then if you appeal, then it's over. So were they telling her, ‘Hey, you are better off not appealing.' Is that the message?

And now the athletic director in this particular (new) policy that they've got, that they've concocted just to get themselves out of this situation. So now the next transfer has got to make all those decisions -- and then if the "new information" that there was no reason to deny the transfer in the first place. If it comes to light 16 days after the appeal, you're screwed; then you are even limited after that - that whole thing makes no sense. It's another ridiculous rule on top of bunch of ridiculous rules.

It's really kind of sad in a way, that they couldn't just say, ‘You know what? We've changed our minds: we've satisfied ourselves and that there was no tampering, she should be allowed to go.' They could say that at any time and their pretending somehow they can't. There's nothing in those bylaws that suggested that they couldn't do what they wanted to do - I think that's shameful. This is a non-revenue sport - a non-revenue sport - and she was treated as an asset, she was their best player, they didn't want to see her go. I understand that. But then to kind of smear her, so everybody is saying: ‘Well, she's either a liar or the former staff are unethical.' They had zero evidence of that - zero. And how do those people prove that they didn't do what they were initially accused of? Currie's tweets were an accusation, how do they prove that that's not true when nobody talked to them?

Click here to see Part I of the interview. For more perspectives on the situation at Kansas State, check out our storystream.