Dave Hickman: College free agents and autograph questions

MORGANTOWN — Cleaning out a crowded notebook and a cluttered mind while waiting for it to snow. Again.

n Last month when Eron Harris announced that he was transferring out of West Virginia’s basketball program, the news was greeted with shock in some quarters. I’ll admit it took me a bit by surprise, too, even though in retrospect you could see some of the handwriting on the wall. As the season wore on, Harris just didn’t seem like the happiest of campers.

You want to know what the most surprising thing is, though? It’s that Harris is WVU’s only outgoing transfer, or at least so far. Don’t think for a minute that there isn’t still time to hit the road.

I say that not because I’ve come to expect players to flee from WVU, although by my count Harris became the 14th player to leave (transfer or dismissed after actually playing) since Bob Huggins arrived in 2014, more than a third of them (five) coming after the 2012-13 season.

No, I bring it up because, with plenty of time for players to hit the bricks, there have already been 350 of them do so across the country.

Granted, some of those are walk-ons and some transferred back in December or January at the semester break. Some are those will take advantage of the graduate transfer rules. Still, 350 is a huge number.

Not a lot of those players are transferring out of Big 12 schools (just eight according to the list compiled by ESPN.com’s Jeff Goodman), but West Virginia might not have been the hardest hit. Yes, Harris is good and might actually be the best available transfer on the market, but Texas lost both athletic forward Jordan Tolbert and shooter Dusty Hannahs.

As usual, Iowa State will likely benefit most from transfers (getting them, not giving). UNLV’s leading scorer last season, shooting guard Bryce Dejean-Jones, is on his way to Ames, as is Jameel McKay, a shot-blocking junior college forward who went to Marquette last season but didn’t play. The Cyclones are also in the mix for forward Ryan Anderson from Boston College. Dejean-Jones will be a graduate transfer and eligible immediately, and McKay will be eligible at the end of the first semester.

All in all, it’s almost like free agency in the NBA isn’t it? But hey, if coaches can do it, why shouldn’t players?

n More than a few people — I among them — seemed confused as to why West Virginia’s football players were permitted to sign autographs after the team’s practice in Charleston, but not under what seemed to be the same conditions in Wheeling two weeks earlier.

An autograph session in Wheeling was nixed because of NCAA rules because Wheeling Island Stadium is a high school facility owned by the Ohio County Board of Education and the home field of Wheeling Park High School. It was allowed in Charleston, even though the facility that hosted it (University of Charleston Stadium or Laidley Field, whichever you prefer) is owned by the Kanawha County Board of Education and is the home field of Capital High School.


Well, here’s the deal, and it is just as clear cut as pretty much everything the NCAA dives into, which is to say it isn’t clear cut at all. But it was approved.

This is from Mike Montoro, WVU’s director of football communications, who relayed this from the school’s compliance department:

“WVU asked the NCAA to review both facilities [and] even though the Kanawha County Board of Education owns Laidley Field, the NCAA felt that such an arrangement would not constitute a high school facility per the legislation,’’ Montoro said. “The University of Charleston sponsored the practice and worked in conjunction with WVU in running the event. Wheeling Island Stadium was viewed as a high school facility per the NCAA legislation.’’

Of course, nowhere in the NCAA’s 432 pages of by-laws is there any mention I can find of players signing autographs at an off-campus practice, so really this is all just ridiculous and highly interpretive.

And you wonder why schools are in a constant state of fear of the NCAA.

n And finally ...

Let’s not take anything away from Mario Alford for returning the opening kickoff of WVU’s spring game for a touchdown Saturday.

But . . .

“It wasn’t our No. 1 kickoff team,’’ special teams coach Joe DeForest said of the group that kicked off and couldn’t stop Alford. “But it wasn’t just a bunch of guys running down there.’’

No, but it might have been 10 guys running down there instead of 11. While the kickoff team wasn’t the first unit, the kicker was. But Mike Molinari was wearing the same white jersey and blue pants Alford was, not the gold over blue worn by the other 10.

“He was wearing the same uniform I was wearing,’’ Molinari said in feigned defense of giving up a kickoff return touchdown. “I’m not tackling my own teammate.’’

Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or dphickman1@aol.com or follow him at Twitter.com/dphickman1.

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