AMELIA ISLAND, Fla. — You might think the best things about covering the ACC spring meetings here would be waking up next to the sun-drenched Atlantic Ocean, temperatures in the low 80s or perhaps the fresh-caught seafood served in the Ritz-Carlton.
I’m staying off-site in Jacksonville (the Ritz has rooms for $499 a night and doesn’t offer Marriott points), and I drive by the beaches but otherwise I might as well be in Alaska.
So, the best thing is getting to meet and interview some of the ACC power brokers, including one of college sports’ biggest — Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick.
A few of the dozen or so reporters here (every newspaper from an ACC city doesn’t send a rep, so kudos to the Trib) cornered Swarbrick on Monday, and one of the topics was Notre Dame’s departing quarterback Everett Golson.
Golson is taking advantage of the NCAA’s fifth-year transfer rule in which he can transfer to another school because he has graduated. Pitt football and basketball are currently taking advantage of that rule.
“I’m not in favor of eliminating it,” Swarbrick said, and he gave a good reason why.
“If our primary mission is education and we certify that a young man or woman has earned a degree from our university,” he said, “I am certifying they are OK to work for Price Waterhouse or a bank or go into a grad program at another school. I’m certifying they can do stuff elsewhere. I don’t think I ought to be limiting that in an athletic sphere.”
Pitt athletic director Scott Barnes doesn’t want to eliminate fifth-year transfer, but he advocates change.
“What has happened is a loophole that has been in place for years has developed a culture of free agency,” he said
“That might just simply be a year in residence. If you transfer, you have to wait a year. That could cause an individual who is supposed to transfer to get a graduate degree to actually have a chance to get a graduate degree (which can take up to two years or longer).
“If you’re going to track those individuals, very few are getting graduate degrees. That’s the loophole that needs to be closed in my mind.
“Have them transfer. Have them sit out a year. Have them really work on getting that degree and then have that year to play.”
Asked how coaches feel about the subject, Barnes said, “There is a lot of debate right now.”
Irish not blocking Golson
There were reports that Notre Dame would block Golson from transferring to Texas because the Longhorns are on the Irish’s schedule this year.
Swarbrick said that was untrue.
“We have not denied a single school that Everett Golson identified as one he has an interest in going to.”
My counter question: “Would you (for any reason)?”
“I’m not going to answer hypotheticals,” he said.
Just a guess, but Texas, Virginia, Georgia Tech, UMass, Clemson, Navy, USC, Temple, Wake Forest, Boston College, Stanford and, yes, Pitt are probably not on Golson’s list. But they are on Notre Dame’s schedule. So, Swarbrick hasn’t had to deny Golson from transferring to one of those schools.
Florida State, Alabama, South Carolina and Florida appear to be candidates, but an SEC bylaw may work against the Crimson Tide’s, Gamecocks’ and Gators’ chances. The SEC requires graduate transfers to have not been “subject to official university athletics department disciplinary action at any time during enrollment at any previous collegiate institution.”
Florida State coach Jimbo Fisher created a minor stir at the ACC meetings Tuesday when he said his school is “negotiating” with Golson, technically an NCAA violation. It was a rare admission by a college coach that would give Pitt compliance officer Dan Bartholomae a strong headache if one of his coaches admitted as much.
Golson was suspended by Notre Dame for the 2013 season for academic reasons. That was a year after he led the Irish to the college football championship game. Earlier in 2012, Golson threw an interception and was briefly benched in the triple-overtime victory against Pitt. Later, he threw for the tying touchdown in regulation, totaled 74 yards rushing and scored the game-winner on a 1-yard plunge.
Yet, Golson is leaving Notre Dame because he likely would be Malik Zaire’s backup this season if he stayed.
The name Zaire brought back memories of former Pitt quarterback Tra’Von Chapman, who was dismissed from school in 2013 after spending time in jail on an assault charge against a former girlfriend. That happened after he enrolled early at Pitt, had attended spring practice and looked like a candidate to become the team’s quarterback of the future.
Chapman, now at Akron, was the No. 2-rated quarterback in Ohio coming out of Kent Roosevelt High School. Zaire was No. 1.