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Blocking college athlete transfers is immoral, even when Bill Snyder does it

Coaches should not be allowed to do this, no matter how nice we think they are.

Kansas State v Iowa State Photo by David Purdy/Getty Images

Bill Snyder is a walking college football legend. The story of his 2017 should’ve been him leading one more successful team into the stadium named after his family because of him and then stepping away to focus on his health. His record at what was once the hardest job in football stands as an argument that he’s one of the greatest college coaches ever.

In recent years, he’s also developed a reputation as the sport’s kind grandpa, writing letters to everyone from opponents to those who wished him well after his cancer diagnosis. He mines JUCOs for unwanted players he can turn into stars, still loves Taco Bell, and coaches teams that are mystically good at squeezing wins out of nothing. We’ve known all this for years.

And every now and then, we get a reminder of the old Snyder who focused so much on winning football games, he’d wake his children in the middle of the night just to have time to play with them.

Blocking an outgoing player’s list of requested transfer destinations is wrong, no matter who’s doing it.

Doing so for competitive reasons is understandable, in coach logic, until you remember these are amateur student-athletes being barred from opportunity by millionaires. Doing so as the head coach of a program that’s widely known for bringing in transfers is puzzling.

Doing so without any apparent competitive gains — Corey Sutton says his list of 35 blocked schools didn’t include any teams in K-State’s conference — was cruel at best, especially when Snyder explained it by spilling news of Sutton allegedly failing drug tests.

“If you do right and abide by the law and our regulations — you know this a young man has been in trouble twice, tested positive twice. I’ve never kept a player in our program who’s tested positive two times, drug testing. But we had some rules within our athletic department that allowed that to happen this time.”

K-State AD Gene Taylor said he wasn’t sure what Snyder meant about the drug test comments.

"That's where I'm not sure. I think coach is [saying] that," said Taylor via CBS Sports.

Snyder later apologized while releasing Sutton.

Sutton could’ve left for another school, played football there, and eventually earned a scholarship there, but he couldn’t use a 2017 scholarship until Kansas State relented or the NCAA stepped in. There was nothing for KSU to gain from any of this, and it’s an issue that’s been a PR disaster for KSU’s athletic department before. If there was an argument for this other than random pettiness, Snyder didn’t make it.

If someone has power, he’ll eventually use it. No coach should have this power.

For a university employee to have this much discretion over a former player’s future (Sutton says he’s already dropped all his KSU classes and everything) shows the sport’s power imbalance every time it happens.

A class of people makes the rules, enforces the rules, benefits from the rules, and protests whenever players attempt to change the rules, all while ignoring the fact that coaches and admins can change schools without penalty whatsoever.

Snyder was far from the first coach to do this, though 35 schools threatens for some sort of unofficial record. (Oklahoma State’s Mike Gundy once hauled out a list of 37.)

If the NCAA was true to its alleged mission of empowering students who play sports and ensuring fairness for everybody involved, he’ll be the last.