I am a little late to this party. Romero is a guard on the Kansas State women’s basketball team, originally from the Canary Islands. She was recruited by the staff of coach Deb Patterson. Patterson was fired after her team went 11-19 this season. Romero was, by her account, very close to Patterson and her staff. They helped her make the difficult adjustment to life in a new country. Romero thrived under Patterson, was one of the team’s best players and, when Patterson was let go, decided that she wanted to transfer.
But Kansas State won’t let her. According to NCAA rules, if a school refuses to release a player, and she decides to transfer, she may not receive any scholarship aid for her first year at the new institution. Romero says she can’t afford to pay for college on her own. K-State doesn’t really care. So far, the school has been more or less mum about the decision. According to ESPN’s Mechelle Voepel, K-State athletic director John Currie tweeted in late April that on the rare occasions when K-State doesn’t grant a release, it’s because of concerns about “tampering.” In other words, the school suspects that the fired coach is trying to dangle Romero as a chip in order to entice some other school to hire her. Romero insists that isn’t true. But even if it were, so what, says Josh Levin. It’s outrageous that Kansas State is essentially telling Romero that even though they canned the coach who brought her to Manhattan, she has to stay where she is.
As Levin notes, if a coach decides a player isn’t useful to the team, that player can be cut loose for any reason (some school now grant four year scholarships, but they remain the exception). And coaches leave for new jobs all the time, all while whining about a “transfer epidemic.”
The thing about the Romero case that is most galling, though, is that the school simply refuses to explain its reasoning to her. Can you imagine? It’s her future at stake, and Kansas State thinks so little of her as a human being, an adult, that they don’t consider it necessarily even to have a meeting with her to discuss why they’re doing what they’re doing. Which is why she, and everyone else, is left to speculate about K-State’s decision.
The NCAA and its apologists keep throwing worst-case scenarios against the wall of public opinion in the hopes that something will stick. The players will try to get out of going to class. They will bankrupt the schools. They will deny women fair access to play their sports. This is all willfully alarmist speculation. The NLRB ruling so far only applies to men’s football. But the principle of giving college athletes real, independent representation is a broader battle. And if it were to come to pass, one thing you can be sure of – a school couldn’t tell a player to go fuck herself without at least having to explain why.