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Marcus Griffin and the NCAA grad transfer rule

Arizona Athletics
Marcus Griffin (95) gets blocked by an opponent during a home game against Hawaii on Sep. 9, 2017. Griffin is a grad transfer and will play at Central Michigan next fall.

The NCAA ruled in 2006 that a college athlete who graduated with remaining athletic eligibility could transfer without sitting out the required season to pursue a graduate degree. Since this rule was put in place, the graduate transfer has become a key piece in recruiting for teams looking for immediate help across college sports. 

Arizona football’s defensive tackle, Marcus Griffin, is using that rule.

The redshirt junior was looking for a fresh start and a place to clear his head after three seasons at the University of Arizona. Griffin had played 11 games in those three seasons, and he knew about mid-season that he would be looking to explore his options. 

“When the news got out I was looking to transfer, I didn’t really know the response I would get at first,” Griffin said. 

After all, while the NCAA created the transfer rule, not all coaches agree on its value. Current University of Texas basketball head coach Shaka Smart spoke to ESPN in 2012 about the value of transfers:

“Transfers have become the No. 1 target in recruiting in the spring — not high school kids because the pickings are very slim by the time you get to this point in the year,” Smart said.

Tubby Smith, basketball coach at High Point University, is one of the coaches that sits opposite of Smart, believing the transfer rule should not exist.

“[The increase in waivers] is a disturbing trend because kids can come up with many [reasons]. That just gives them another way to quit,” Smith said to ESPN in a 2012 article on graduate transfers. “You signed the papers. This is where you wanted to be.”

However, it worked out for Griffin, and soon, big-name schools such as Texas Tech, Virginia and Oklahoma State came calling when they heard he was looking to transfer.

Griffin, however, was looking for a place that had a different atmosphere than some of the bigger places and programs across the country. 

Marcus Griffin during a home game against Hawaii on Sep. 9, 2017. Griffin played in 11 games in three seasons with Arizona.
Marcus Griffin during a home game against Hawaii on Sep. 9, 2017. Griffin played in 11 games in three seasons with Arizona.

“I wanted more of a small town feel and atmosphere, someplace where you won’t get caught up in the glam of it all,” he said.

Central Michigan University is located in the city of Mount Pleasant, Michigan, with a population of just over 26,000, according to the 2016 census. For Griffin, this was just the type of atmosphere he was looking for. 

“They were one of the first schools to offer,” Griffin said. “Head coach [John] Bonamego always made me feel important and wanted during the process.”

Griffin was sold on the culture, and he announced shortly thereafter that he was committing to the Chippewas. 

“It was a great campus and fanbase,” Griffin said. “I have family in Michigan I wanted to get a little closer to as well, so everything worked out well.”

Griffin leaves for Central Michigan on June 1 and still has yet to determine what he will pursue his graduate degree in. But he said he will always remember the class he came in with during his time at the UA. 

“That group I came in with and the bond we’ve had over these last four years is one I wouldn’t trade,” said Griffin. “They really made my time on campus, and in Tucson, special.”

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