Athletes Transferring in the Name of Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness

Mike FerreroCorrespondent IApril 3, 2009

ANNAPOLIS, MD - SEPTEMBER 20: Safety Jeff Deliz #17 of the Navy Midshipmen carries the American Flag to the field before play against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights at Jack Stephens Field at Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium on September 20, 2008 in Annapolis, Maryland.  (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)

The United States Declaration of Independence is an American symbol. It is a symbol of liberty, it is a symbol of prosperity, and it is a symbol of adjustment to one’s surroundings.

When Thomas Jefferson first put quill to ink to hemp and concocted this Declaration of Independence, he crafted one of the most defining works in the history of civilization. Inscribed throughout this famous document are ideals and morals that are as American as American can get.

One of those ideals comes from maybe the single most important sentence ever written by an American:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

This sentence says it all. American citizens have the God-given right to persevere in all facets of Life, Liberty, and Happiness. It is the American people's duty to achieve these goals by pretty much any means necessary. And when Jefferson states Happiness (capital H), he is referring to the accumulation of all forms of capital.

Of course, while this document was meant to be carried out by colonists who wished to abstain from the tyranny of British rule, it can still be applied to modern day times as well.

That is exactly why this document is so captivating. Here we are, some 250 years later, and there are still countless ways that this single sentence applies to contemporary society in the United States of America.

Undoubtedly, one of the lesser-perceived applications of Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness in modern day times is in American sports. Throughout recent sports history, there have been numerous struggles (or “battles,” if you will) for professional and amateur athletes alike to take advantage of this concept that Thomas Jefferson so acutely set forth.

One of the most famous of these “battles” is the Battle of Free Agency. This historical battle took place in 1969 between a noble soldier by the name of Curt Flood and the Major League Baseball Commissioner of the time, Bowie Kuhn.

Flood insisted that he not be forced to relocate from the St. Louis Cardinals to the Philadelphia Phillies. While this battle was unsuccessful on paper, it laid the groundwork for other players to feel the same way as Flood. This ascension of the power by numbers eventually led to the first form of free agency in all of sports.

The Battle of Free Agency is the epitome of what the essence behind the concept of Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness is all about. A player (or person) should always be free of ownership by any certain entity. It should be up the individual, and the individual alone to decide what is best, unless there is a binding contractual agreement that states otherwise (like a professional contract).

Of course, Jefferson’s famous words can pertain to amateur athletes as well. There are an innumerable amount of instances that can cause a young adult to change his or her mind midway throughout any athletic endeavor, therefore leading them to have the desire to change schools. In the NCAA realm, this is called transferring.

The ability to transfer schools is what the concept of Life, Liberty, and especially the pursuit of Happiness is all about. If a college student feels that the situation they are currently in does not best fit their pursuit of Happiness in life, then they must do what is necessary to achieve this God-given, unalienable right. Right?

Well, apparently the NCAA does not feel this way. For some reason, the NCAA has felt the need to alienate the student-athlete from the rest of the university student population.

When my ex-roommate decided that studying agriculture was his path to Happiness, he easily transferred to a school with an agriculture program the very next semester.

When a student-athlete (in revenue bearing sports) decides that he is blocked by what is going to be a perennial starter, and there is not much the athlete can do to overcome this barrier, one would think that the athlete has a right to simply pursue other opportunities just as easily as my ex-roommate.

But, this is not the case with the student-athlete. Instead, they are slapped with restrictions and limitations from the various higher-ups at their current school and beyond. What is so telling about these restrictions, though, is the fact that they only apply to revenue-generating sports, like football, basketball, and hockey.

It could not be more obvious that the decisions behind these restrictions are purely economically-based, when it should be independently based on the individual. The pursuit of Happiness is a highly personal choice that no one should be allowed to impede upon under most circumstances.

A prime example of a student-athlete being withheld from his unalienable rights is sophomore QB Robert Marve.

This soon to be ex-Miami Hurricane was told a plethora of promises by his recruiting coach and head coach Randy Shannon. He was told sweet nothings like, “You can be the starting QB for this team,” and “You will be the featured player in our offense.” These types of musings do nothing but dwell in a young, impressionable adult's mind that someday he will really be something and that this is the right path in order to achieve that.

But, of course, not all promises are set in stone. It is not uncommon for a coach to go against his or her word in order to make his or her own pursuit of Happiness all the more attainable as well. This happens in all phases of sports and is a part of life.

Well, this past offseason Marve lost the starting QB competition with a younger, more agile version of himself, Jacory Harris.  Now, it becomes time for Marve to figure out how to go about his future.

The first thought that might come to many people’s mind is Marve must learn to step up and beat out his competition. But, this is no guarantee. Marve will never be able to predict if he can actually progress faster than his already advanced competition has. He can only hope to.

So, another option for Marve is to simply transfer. Applying his services to another team could very well lead to an opportunity to reach his desired level of success and Happiness. After mulling this decision over with his family, this is actually what he decides to do.

But, right on cue, as soon as Marve stated his desire to play somewhere else, Shannon (backed by the UM athletic department) stated Marve would be allowed to transfer as long as he obeys a few transfer school restrictions that the athletic department felt were appropriate to this situation.

While it is not all that uncommon for a school to have a few restrictions bound to a transfer, there are usually limitations on transferring to rival schools within the same conference. This implies a level of respect the player should have to the university that did offer him a scholarship in the first place.

But, much to the Marve family’s chagrin, the University of Miami did not just restrict Marve from transferring to Virginia Tech, Florida State, or any other ACC football powerhouse. The University of Miami athletic department restricted Marve from transferring to a whopping 27 schools!

This list of restricted schools included all the teams in the ACC, all the teams in the SEC, and all the D-I schools in Florida. Obviously, the Marve family was extremely agitated with the list of restricted schools and immediately protested this ruling.

After much outcry from the media and other college programs alike, the University of Miami decided to downsize its list of restricted schools to all the teams in the ACC and the state of Florida, as well as LSU and Tennessee.

While that does leave Marve with more options, the list is still incredibly limiting. It was reported that the Marve family contacted LSU, Tennessee, and Florida, which caused their appearances on the restriction list, but this accusation is adamantly denied by the Marve family and any coaches involved.

The fact still remains that Marve and his family hail from Tampa, FL, yet he was not allowed to attend a school anywhere near the area!

This gesture made by the University of Miami is a complete slap in the face to all the notions of Lady Liberty.

This country was founded on the freedom of few restrictions with what an individual can do with their life. Just because the STUDENT-athlete is tied to a revenue-generating sport does not mean they can be exploited this way. Why is it that a student-athlete is expected to stay loyal to a university, when that university only sees them as a revenue-generating commodity?

What the NCAA should do is step into the middle of this situation and act as a mediator. They can begin to draft a compromise that restricts Marve from attending ACC schools, like Florida State, but allow Marve to attend LSU or the University of Florida (or at least Florida International!) in order to attend a school closer to his family.

Basically, what the athletic department at the University of Miami is doing to Marve and his family is downright crooked. Restricting another man’s freedom of personal preference only eliminates the credence of this pursuit of Happiness. The only people who can right this wrong are the NCAA and the University of Miami themselves, but I wouldn’t count on it.


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