TIPOFF: 4 p.m. PT Sunday at McKale Center, Tucson, Ariz. TV/Radio: Pac-12 Networks/910-AM.
What do Arizona point guard Mark Lyons and former Wisconsin quarterback Russell Wilson have in common?
Both utilized NCAA bylaw 18.104.22.168 to transfer to a new school and play one final season without delay as post-graduate student-athletes.
Wilson left North Carolina State before the 2011 football season and threw 33 touchdown passes for the Badgers, leading them to the Big Ten title and a spot in the Rose Bowl. He now is a bright young star for the Seattle Seahawks.
Lyons graduated last spring from Xavier and took advantage of the rule to transfer to Arizona. He also was immediately eligible and has been a key to the No. 7 Wildcats’ rise to the top of the Pac-12 Conference.
On Sunday, he is Cal’s problem, and Bears coach Mike Montgomery doesn’t like the rule that allowed the Cats to instantly plug in a floor leader who had played in three NCAA Sweet 16s and scored more than 1,000 points his first three seasons.
“They’re not nearly the team they are if they don’t get a fifth-year guy, graduate student, to come in and play the point,” Montgomery said. “The ability to get a guy immediately eligible that’s not a freshman, that’s a veteran, that’s a really good player … that’s a huge difference.”
Make no mistake, Lyons’ contribution to the Cats has been nearly as significant as what Wilson provided Wisconsin. Arizona had talent at every other position, but a big question mark at point guard. Lyons has played well enough to be in the conversation for Pac-12 Player of the Year.
Montgomery’s complaint isn’t with Lyons or Arizona. He just doesn’t like the rule, which originally required players to file a waiver request, then in 2010 simply allowed a a graduate to make the move without the player having to sit out a year, as is typically the case with transfer players.
“I think it’s just opened a big can of worms,” Montgomery said. “I’m saying in general that is troublesome because what it’s going to do is people are going to start recruiting from other people’s campuses. It’s just inevitable.”
It’s inevitable, he said, because coaches are always searching for ways to stretch the rules or crawl through a loophole. In the case of this rule, Montgomery is convinced those who created it didn’t understand the possible ramifications.
“What they call unintended consequences are just incredible,” he said. “We take one thing and make it into something it’s totally not designed to be. You can’t blame anybody.”
The response to this, Montgomery predicts, is some coaches will encourage their academic advisors to slow the academic progress of students to assure they don’t graduate with a year of sports eligibility remaining.
“What’s going to happen,” he said, “is nobody’s going to allow their kids to graduate in their fourth year.”
Said NCAA president Mark Emmert, “I’m concerned about all of (the scenarios) that are out there.”
Montgomery has at least a few allies on the topic. Wisconsin coach Bo Ryan, in an interview with USA Today last year, said, “I don’t think it’s a good idea at all.”
Emmert, in Berkeley last weekend to watch Oregon play Cal, defended the spirit of the rule.
“If you’ve got a student-athlete who’s done everything you want him to do — they’ve gone to school, graduated from class on time or ahead of time, they’ve got some eligibility left — that suggests they ought to have an opportunity to go do something else if they choose,” he said.
Emmert also said the NCAA executive council has been charged this spring and summer with taking a hard look at all transfer rules. Too many athletes transfer, he said, and the rulebook needs streamlining to eliminate the surge of requests for waivers based on a range of issues.
“The fact that in any given year we have hundreds and hundreds of applications for waivers from the existing rules tells you the existing rules aren’t working very well,” he said.
One idea being floated is to allow graduate students to transfer and play a fourth season, but require them to sit out one year first. In other words, give them six years to play four.
“In most cases, grad school tends to be a two-year program,” said Jim Haney, executive director of the National Association of Basketball Coaches. “If they’re genuine in their interest in getting a (graduate) degree, they’ll be on scholarship their first year without playing but practicing.
“Our coaches like that better than (players) transferring and becoming immediately eligible.”
Added Emmert, “I think there’ll be a lot of talk about that. I’m sure there’ll be a robust discussion on that.”
ABOUT THE WILDCATS: Senior Solomon Hill has continued to evolve for the Wildcats, and this season is a 41.1-percent 3-point shooter. He is one of four UA players with at least 25 3-pointers. The Cats lead the Pac-12 in 3-pointers per game (7.6) and are second in 3-point accuracy (.358). … Arizona also is first in the conference in FT percentage (.754), second in scoring (74.7) and rebounding margin (plus-7.5) and third in scoring defense (61.9). … Freshman F Brandon Ashley, a Dublin native and one-time Bishop O’Dowd HS star, has scored double digits nine times this season, including a best of 20 points vs. Long Beach State.
THE SERIES: Arizona leads 55-28. The Wildcats won the only meeting between the teams last year, 78-74, at Berkeley. UA has won the past three, including a 107-105 triple-overtime decision at Berkeley in 2010-11. Cal has lost 15 of its past 16 games in Tucson (winning 83-77 in 2008-09).
ETC: Junior Allen Crabbe has moved to No. 15 on Cal’s career scoring list with 1,354 points. Next up for him: Roy Fisher, who scored 1,382 points from 1987-88 through 1990-91. Already, Crabbe ranks No. 4 in Cal history among players whose careers spanned just three seasons, trailing Lamond Murray, who had 1,688 points from 1991-92 through 1993-94, Russ Critchfield, who totaled 1,437 points from 1965-66 through 1967-68, and Ansley Truitt, with 1,384 points from 1969-70 through 1971-72. … Cal coach Mike Montgomery, with 265 Pac-12 victories, is one shy of equaling Washington’s Hec Edmundson (1921-47) for fourth on the all-time conference wins list. He needs 11 more to tie Oregon State’s Slats Gill for third.
WHAT’S NEXT: Cal plays UCLA on Thursday at Haas Pavilion. Tipoff is 6 p.m. PT.
Cal (13-9, 5-5 Pac-12)
|SG Allen Crabbe||6-6||Jr.||19.3||5.5|
|PF Richard Solomon||6-10||Jr.||8.1||6.6|
|PF David Kravish||6-9||So.||7.9||6.7|
|PG Justin Cobbs||6-2||Jr.||14.3||4.3*|
|SG Tyrone Wallace||6-3||Fr.||7.3||4.7|
|G Brandon Smith||5-11||Sr.||3.1||2.3*|
|C Robert Thurman||6-10||Sr.||5.2||3.8|
|F Bak Bak||6-9||Sr.||1.5||1.1|
Arizona (20-2, 8-2 Pac-12)
|C Kaleb Tarczewski||7-0||Fr.||6.0||5.6|
|PF Brandon Ashley||6-8||Fr.||7.8||5.7|
|SF Solomon Hill||6-7||Sr.||14.0||5.4|
|SG Nick Johnson||6-3||So.||12.5||3.7|
|PG Mark Lyons||6-1||Sr.||15.4||3.0*|
|G Kevin Parrom||6-6||Sr.||8.2||5.0|
|F Grant Jarrett||6-10||Fr.||4.8||4.0|
|G Jordin Mayes||6-3||Jr.||2.7||1.1*|