There is considerable wringing of hands (and some gnashing of teeth) in college basketball circles over the spiraling transfer rate over the last decade or so. Jeff Goodman, a quality journalist who keeps a list of transfers just announced the list is now at 350. Is this really a horrible phenomenon as many would have you believe? I think not...
First of all, yes it would be great if all D1 student-athletes (and D2, D3, NAIA and JC for that matter) were seamless fits in their chosen programs. Places where they were successful as students, athletes and as people, thriving on and off the court experiencing mutually respectful relationships with their coaches. Conventional wisdom opines that if these young people were not so fragile or soft and lacking in commitment there wouldn't be such a high transfer rate. This seems like a little bit of victim blaming.
Evaluation and recruiting are not easy! Despite the tremendous time, effort and energy that go into these efforts, coaches sometimes make errors in their evaluations of 14-18 year olds, and how they will behave as they grow and emerge as adults. Importantly, this in turn leads to dissatisfaction with limited playing time and roles presented by the coach once the player is in the program. Typically, this occurs when a player commits to a school a little above the level where they can effectively impact. Or the player actually turns out to be a poor system, scheme fit and opts for a new program and a fresh start.
Coaches sometimes turn out to be quite different than the manner they presented themselves during the recruiting process telling prospects what they want to hear rather than what they need to hear. There is also ample evidence that there are a handful of coaches who aren't very balanced people and behave as dictators who diminish and demean their players. So we can point to some coaching quirkiness as a cause of transferring as well.
College students who are not athletes and 18-22 year olds often change their minds and seek new schools or opportunities, and these developments aren't seen as a crisis by the hand wringers because they see it as young adults exercising fundamental freedom of choice.
Finally, and possibly most importantly coaches seem to be able to jump from school to school chasing more money, a better opportunity or simply more contract years and a fresh start. People breathlessly follow the coaching carousel each spring and cheer the new hires. Why then are players held to such a different, better yet, such a double standard?