A spirited conversation with UGA’s Mark Fox about transfer controversy

I’ve had a few recruiting discussions with UGA basketball coach Mark Fox over the last couple of years. But none was as spirited as this week’s talk.

UGA made gigantic gains over the last few months but it wasn't enough (AJC)

UGA's Mark Fox: "Coaches can’t move around freely. Coaches are bound by buyout agreements ..." (AJC)

The topic was restrictions on transfer players, which has suddenly transformed into a hotly-debated topic in college athletics.

For the record, Fox is what transfer players consider “one of the good guys.” He has an “open release” policy, allowing his players to go anywhere they want, even an SEC foe or archrival Georgia Tech.

That’s where we will pick up the conversation.

  • So why would you let one of your players freely transfer to another SEC school? What if he comes back and helps beat you? “I think as coaches, as long as there hasn’t been tampering, I don’t see why you should preclude a kid on going somewhere where they can pursue their lifelong goals. I don’t think, in those situations, that there’s any reason to try to steer them away from any particular school.”
  • What do you think about the public backlash to college coaches putting severe restrictions on transfer players? Some people feel like it’s unfair to put restrictions like that on a player who is already penalized by having to sit out one season … while a college coach can move freely at a moment’s notice to take another high-paying job and leave his players behind. “That’s not true. Coaches can’t move around freely. Coaches are bound by buyout agreements and everything else. That’s not accurate. If I wanted to leave Georgia, which I don’t and never want to … there’s a buyout in my contract that discourages that from occurring. For those who say coaches go wherever they want to go, that’s not true. I think in 90-percent of the contracts, there’s a buyout provision that if a coach would leave, there would be something given to the school that he’s leaving. I don’t think that has been portrayed accurately. I think the big issue was when there has been tampering that leads to a transfer, there ought to be, from athletic director to athletic director, some ability in place for them to restrict kids to go to schools that have tampered with the current situation.”
  • I could be wrong, but I don’t think a buyout is really a restriction. If a player transfers, he has to sit out a year. If a coach takes a job at another college, he doesn’t have to sit out a season or anything like that. “But that’s apples and oranges. Every kid, no matter if he’s restricted or not restricted, he has to sit out a year. You can’t say ‘Why don’t coaches have to sit out a year?’ We’re talking about restricting releases to certain schools. That’s different. I think they’re tying in unrelated issues.”
  • Besides, if another college really wants to hire a coach, then they will just pay him enough money to absorb the buyout. “I think it’s [Sports Illustrated’s] Seth Davis, who I know … who wrote ‘Why should coaches be able to move and players can’t?’ There are clauses in contracts that coaches and schools agree to. I think that’s a poor comparison. I really do. And you’re talking to a coach that never wants to go anywhere. I don’t think that’s the same thing.”
  • I realize that transfer restrictions can be a complex issue inside college basketball circles. But I do think mainstream America sees it as ‘Why should coaches be able to move on and players can’t?” like you mentioned. That’s how they are seeing it. “Why do they feel that way? Because they read what Seth Davis or Michael Carvell write. I’m glad you’re doing the story so you can accurately portray it. Again, we’ve got no issues with any of it because I don’t have any guys leaving right now. If, when we’ve had some guys leave, we’ll let them go wherever.”
  • What do you think about the NCAA president saying the transfer rules need to be looked at to make sure they are fair to student-athletes? “I hope the NCAA looks into a lot of things.”
  • So you think it’s fair to kids, let’s say, when John L. Smith was recently hired as the Arkansas football coach, months after signing a recruiting class as Weber State’s coach? Then he leaves for Arkansas. “Let’s flip this around. Think about this for a minute: When a school makes a coaching change, people are writing, well it’s the coaches that can leave. But if a school fires a coach, then do the players have a right to do whatever they want? All 13 basketball players on scholarship and all 85 on a football scholarship? Should they be able to transfer without penalty because the school made the decision for the coach to leave and not the coach?”
  • That’s a good point. But in basketball, with such a small roster, it seems like many newly hired coaches are more than happy to see players transfer so they can bring in their own. “With the APR, you can’t do really do that. If you’re APR is too low, you can’t play in the NCAA tournament. So that’s impossible.”

Since I wasn’t well-versed on the APR rules, I told the coach that we’ll have to talk about that another day. I took the conversation in a different direction, asking Fox his thoughts on Georgia Tech’s restriction on players transferring to UGA. You can read about that here.

Mark Fox had some interesting thoughts and opinions. I appreciate him for sharing them. What are your thoughts? Is a contract buyout really a restriction? Yes or no? What do you think about his other comments? Please post below.




– By Michael Carvell, AJC Recruiting Blog

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47 comments Add your comment

State of Georgia's basketball

April 30th, 2012
5:25 am


April 30th, 2012
7:08 am

Objection, your honor, badgering the witness. Why was it “spirited” when Fox allows transfers to any school, isn’t leaving Georgia, and agrees NCAA transfer rules should be looked at?


April 30th, 2012
7:27 am

Each coach may have different restrictions in his/her contracts which is a part of the negotiations prior to signing. There has to be certain restrictions that may apply to different schools, conferences and regions and the past history and experiences of both the schools and coaches that might not apply uniformly across the board. Obviously there is a difference between coaches leaving a program and players requesting a transfer. Schools have an invested interest in their student athletes and have shared with them certain play books and philosophies that are specific to that team which may be compromised with a player leaving the program and transferring to a school that is on the schedule. Coaches leaving programs take their play books with them and new coaches bring their own methods.
I do believe that the transfer rules should be reviewed and adopted uniformly through out the NCAA so that they are consistent and fair to both the players and the schools. A player needs to learn that signing a scholarship offer/agreement s a legal contract and they are receiving monetary rewards for their services and therefore some restrictions should apply to govern the relationship between the school and the athlete and each of their responsibilities to each other.

Ted Striker

April 30th, 2012
7:37 am

Good interview & intelligent questions. Fox makes good points in his responses.

Whiskey Breath

April 30th, 2012
7:38 am

Coach Saban and his wife have done another evil deed and non christian behavior.
They are rebuilding 14 homes for the tornado victims of last year.
These victims will never completely recover, and 53 people lost their life.
The Sabans also have Nick Kids, a organization to help children and familites.
The only problems is they don’t pat their selfs on theirbacks and brag about their
religion. What evil, lazy , cheating jerks.


April 30th, 2012
7:54 am

I agree with TNDawg – if Fox is one of the ‘good guys’ – why ask him the same question 4 different ways while your interview with Gregory only focused on his restrictions, which by your definition means he is NOT a ‘good guy.’

Fox is right that the difference is apples and oranges. A coach is PAID for his or her abilities under an employment contract. A player is GIVEN an education and all of the accoutrements that come with being a D1 athlete. Should the Kentucky starting five be required to play for Kentucky for four years? There are a lot more athletes leaving early each year then their are coaches moving to new schools. BTW – I don’t like nor advocate restrictions on either.


April 30th, 2012
8:00 am


Appreciate you took on the subject…but as you stated.

I think you are interviewing one of the good guys. No restrictions on transferring.I think that is as player friendly as it gets.Situations change and players should be able to sit out one year and go anywhere they please after that.

Why dont you interview someone who is more like the coach who had 800 restrictions on where the player could go? I think it was a big 10 school. or heck interview someone like Gregory who says ACC and UGA.

Seems like you took advantage of someone like Fox who offered you an open interview,,,and you turned it in to a “spirited event’.

I also find it interesting you were unprepared about the APR rule, so you decided to table that for another conversation. Bet a coach does not get the same tabling from reporters if they dont have an answer for something, they just get pile stacked.


April 30th, 2012
8:27 am

I like Coach Fox but don’t hand us the “We’re bound by buyout agreements…” If the boosters from the new place aren’t taking care of that, fire your agent. If you don’t have an agent, fire yourself.


April 30th, 2012
8:28 am


Fox is right that it’s apples to oranges. There’s no deception involved because coaches sign contracts upfront so administrators know they can leave, and administrators can structure salary & buyout clauses that preclude this from happening if they want a coach badly enough. So, it’s really on the admin, not the coaches, to discourage coaches from transfer, and it’s all by contract, unlike players.


April 30th, 2012
8:32 am

In the pros, Hulk, a soccer striker, has an $85 million buy out clause. Admin and coaches can’t structure those with amateur unpaid players, I think that’s where Fox was going with the buy out clause angle. Buy out clauses can be used, like Petrino’s, to discourage them leaving, but not on amateur players, if it was a professional player, then the field is even, but buy out clauses restrict college coaches, while they cannot be used on players.


April 30th, 2012
8:52 am

Good interview with Coach Fox. Now, if he could recruit a few more guys.


April 30th, 2012
8:55 am

Whisky Breath, I’m a UGA fan, who also is a Saban fan – or was until I saw him on tv last week, walking through the Rose Garden with the US Emperor, grinning and waving.

Ugh . . .


April 30th, 2012
9:00 am

Professional paid college Coaches and amateur unpaid college players are very different in two ways:
1) Coaches can be paid, and those payments can discourage leaving, not so for college players
(VTech adds guaranteed retirement income for life for Beamer to retain him)
2) Coaches can have large buyout clauses that discourage leaving, college players can’t


April 30th, 2012
9:20 am

Coach Fox rules!!


April 30th, 2012
9:35 am

Of course college students should be able to transfer between schools. Playing basketball, or any other sport, shouldn’t make a difference in whether you are able to transfer. I like CMF but he’s got it wrong on the hypocrisy of allowing coaches to move around when players can’t. One big difference CMF overlooks is that the NCAA doesn’t require coaches to sign contracts with buyout provisions — they do this of their own individual free will. Players don’t have that choice. If players want to play at an NCAA school, they are stuck with the transfer rules whether they like it or not.

Frank Lane

April 30th, 2012
9:44 am

I agree with Fox 100%.


April 30th, 2012
9:47 am

Mark Fox is the man, #1 in the nation in player development, ya’ll go easy on the guy, we want to keep him around at Georgia for a long time.

Mark (another one)

April 30th, 2012
10:19 am

This is apples and oranges. Coaches’ contracts are negotiated. If there is a buyout clause, it was agreed to. That’s why we often hear of buyout clauses that are waived for particular schools. This negotiation occurs between two parties with options. The school can decide to get a different coach, and the coach can decide to negotiate with a different school.

Kids coming out of high school do not negotiate the terms of their agreements. The NCAA doesn’t allow it. The NCAA dictates the terms and the student athlete either accepts them are goes to a non-NCAA school, and there aren’t many of those. This is a case of the monopoly dictating the rules to the labor pool.

The NCAA states they always keep the best interest of the players at the forefront of their decision process, but forcing a tranferring player to sit out a year is not consistant with that statement. It only serves the schools and the NCAA.

Why don’t they have the same rule (requiring the transferring player to sit out a year) for all sports?

Ogeechee Dawg

April 30th, 2012
10:21 am

Interesting conversation.

Bottom line:
If a player wants to transfer – they can – but have to sit out a year and lose a year of eligibility.
If a player is “run-out” they still have to sit out a year and lose a year of eligibility.
If a coach he plays for leaves on his own – or is fired – same rules apply.
The player committed to a school – and the program that best fit him at the time of his committment.
He will still count toward APR.
This is how it shuld be to discourage tampering.

If a coach is fired – he can go coach at any school he can find a job.
If a coach leaves on his own – then he has to pay a buyout.
This is how it should be with the exception that I believe a “student” should be able to transfer where-ever he wants – unless there is tampering involved.

There is nothing unfair about any of this. A player has to understand that change is a posibility. Therefore , he/she needs to like the school as well as the coach.

For the cry babies out there concerned that this is not fair – well, too bad. There is nothing unfair about it. This is reality and the potential for change in an industry of constant coaching changes is something you have to consider. How you deal with change and adversity is a part of life.

Ogeechee Dawg

April 30th, 2012
10:23 am

SW79 – I agree that Fox is a good game coach and good at developing players. But if he can not draw the players needed to compete in the SEC (outside of KY and FL – a pretty mediocre conference), then we need to hire an “impact” coach with name recognition that will draw players into Athens.


April 30th, 2012
10:40 am

Fox is a terrible game day coach. He looks like a deer in the headlights on the sidelines, and his players play like it at crunch time. Did you not watch the SEC tournament game 2 years ago against Bama. He allows his player to get trapped on the sideline, and he doesn’t call timeout to help the player out. The player throws the ball away and Bama scores and takes the lead. Then the idiot calls a timeout with one second just as one of the UGA players was taking a 3 point shot. The shot went in, and UGA would have won the damn game, except their wonderful game day coach called a stupid timeout with 1 second left in game. What in the hell was he going to do with 1 second. Then he doesn’t call a timeout against Florida, at home, and he allows the Florida guard to go uncontested all the way down the court and score, while his players were totally confused on what to do. This guy is a joke during games, and he is even worse at recruiting. Yet all of these knowledgeable UGA basketball fans, YEA RIGHT, sit here and talk about how wonderful this loser is during games. You can thank Evans for this wonderful hire, that is going to put UGA basketball even 3 or 4 more years behind being competitive again in the SEC. Fox will have his 3rd losing season out of 4 this year, and the only reason he had one winning season, is due to Felton’s players. Fox want have a winning season ever with the marginal projects he recruits. Case i point, the last signee, Kessler. A wonderful 2 star athlete that UGA beat out 3 division 2 schools for his signature. But at least Fox doesn’t have to worry about one of his players transferring to another SEC school, none of the programs in the SEC want any of his players.When will the nightmare end in Athens??


April 30th, 2012
10:40 am

Hey Whiskey Breath …just your name tells me a lot about your character.The only reason people like you talk about Mark Richt and point fingers at him are because other idiots like you make incorrect posts and statments about him that people like you believe are true with out checking the facts…Please tell when you EVER heard Mark Richt brag about what he and his family do in helping others….or openly talk down about others who don’t belive as he does?….I’ll answer the question for you…NEVER.The only reason anybody knows what he does in his personal life is because the AJC reports it a a news worthy story… period. How’d you find out about the great work that Saban and his wife are doing?…. he or his wife must have talked about it to someone who then reported it. He sure as hell didn’t call an idiot like you to tell. Your the kind of person he most likely tries to avoid……a pompous ass know- it- all Bama fan who doesn’t know his ass from his head!


April 30th, 2012
10:43 am

Fox has a $2 million buyout clause, he’s signed through 2015. That’s the context he’s coming from. If he were to leave, in 45 days, Mark Fox would have to pay Georgia $2 million.

On the other hand, a player can transfer, and not have to pay a dime.

Very different.

Michael Carvell

April 30th, 2012
10:44 am

@SW79, thanks for your comment. I’m pretty sure that if a school like Kentucky really wanted to hire Mark Fox, they would cover the buyout (or increase Fox’s salary) to where it would not be an issue. Agree or disagree?


April 30th, 2012
10:57 am

Well-stated ADMan! The irony about Whiskey Breath’s comment is that it has nothing to do with the story! He/she just had to get that comment in to make himself/herself feel better about the Sabans and take a veiled shot @ the Richts. Charity work should be applauded no matter who does it.


April 30th, 2012
11:11 am

Sounds like, in a battle of wits with Mark Fox, some folks are defenseless……


April 30th, 2012
11:28 am


April 30th, 2012
10:40 am

Please tell when you EVER heard Mark Richt brag about what he and his family do in helping others….or openly talk down about others who don’t belive as he does?….I’ll answer the question for you…NEVER.The only reason anybody knows what he does in his personal life is because the AJC reports it a a news worthy story

Mark Richt in Honduras.

Do not let your left hand know what your right is doing. Christians should always do their good deeds in private.

Matthew 6:1-4
6 “Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.

2 “So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full. 3 But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 4 so that your giving may be in secret. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you.

Only our Heavily Father is good.
Luke 18:19
“Why do you call me good?” Jesus answered. “No one is good–except God alone.



April 30th, 2012
11:47 am

If a coach leaves or is fired, then a player who signed under that coach should be able to transfer w/o penalty to any school in the country.

It’s that simple.


April 30th, 2012
11:47 am

Joey @ 8:55

I have a new found respect for Saban after reading your comments. I’m glad to know that coach Saban with all of his success, wealth, and philanthropic leanings, is still a clear thinking individual that doesn’t hate people based on made up myths.


April 30th, 2012
11:59 am



April 30th, 2012
12:13 pm

Whiskey breath: You worked that well rehearsed blog entry in didn’t you? It was a timely contribution to the conversation.


April 30th, 2012
1:31 pm

Agree with Fox. Love his comment about never wanting to leave Georgia. Yes we need more metro area players but Fox is a good coach and a DGD as far as I’m concerned. I think he will get the job done . . . and personally I love the fact that he loves Athens and the University of Georgia. Landers on the other hand, while he built the women’s program to a level of national prominence, needs to call it a career. He’s had too many top players to not have brought home at least one national championship. The game has passed him by and it will take another coach to get us to the next level.


April 30th, 2012
1:40 pm

Carvell seemed to have an agenda in this interview,but he is wrong and Fox is right,first of all, on the apples/oranges thing..You cannot compare people under employment (coaches) with those playing for a free education, It’s not the same thing. One is a job, one is not.
Players know the rules going in. All players are advised to choose the school not the coach, and all players know the scholly is a one yr deal (or has been may change). And players CAN go wherever they want. Anytime they want to leave school, they can do it .People leave school all of the time for many reasons. Some go elsewhere, some drop out, all of these players are free to do that..or they can play by the rules they agree to and quit whining, College isnt for everybody.


April 30th, 2012
2:30 pm

Despite his talk, if Fox were offered a job at a “basketball” school, he would leave in a second. He will always play a distant second fiddle to football at UGA. There is nothing wrong with that – its just the way it is. Another problem is recruiting – 5-star guys want to be the center of attention on campus, and no basketball player will ever be that at UGA. Tony Parker had every reason (location, friends already signed, immediate starter) to come to UGA and didn’t. There will be more Tony Parker’s than KCP’s out there and Fox will get tired of it.


April 30th, 2012
2:32 pm

Mark Fox is a class act in a shady business.


April 30th, 2012
3:00 pm

Whiskey I am sure Little Nicky is footing the bill for all 14 of those houses he is rebuilding. What is it 1 for every career of one of the kids he gets rid of in his “roster Management”? He has even been quoted as saying he doesn’t like the NFL because he can’t get a competitive advantage, and until he went somewhere that is willing to lose their accredidation to win football games he didn’t win anything. Look it up, he won 60% of his games, but going to Bama is idea for him, a college who cares nothing about the value of their diplomas, but will do anything to win a ball game, from buying players to ruining dreams.


April 30th, 2012
3:08 pm

tony – great Scriptures, poor example in CMR. Do you think the head coach @ UGA can secretly sneak off to Honduras without anyone noticing?


April 30th, 2012
3:09 pm

“And you’re talking to a coach that never wants to go anywhere.” I think he was trying to be polite Mike. Any yes most schools, booster clubs etc would cover the cost of a buyout clause on way or another. I like the coach’s policy on transfers. I hope he can get this program moving again and that he is there a long time. Seems like a good coach.


April 30th, 2012
3:55 pm

Buy outs are not present in all contracts. Nick Saban can walk away anytime he wishes. It’s in the contract, not across the board.


April 30th, 2012
4:26 pm


What’s your point? In today’s era of media, every little detail like that is going to get reported when it’s done by a high profile individual. For example, it’d be impossible for someone like Richt, Saban, etc. in the position that they’re in to take a trip to Honduras or wherever without someone knowing about it and the media reporting on it.

Besides, it has NOTHING to do with the current topic here. I was hesitant to comment because of that and won’t again.

Floundering Fox Hounds Batman!

April 30th, 2012
5:19 pm

Non issue here….. Fox will be gone in a coupe of years anyway.

Dawg Bite

April 30th, 2012
5:32 pm

Gordon @2:30, you, sir are correct. If for some reason UK, UNC,Duke, or Kansas would come calling, CMF would be gone in a heart beat. Why did Coach Bryant leave UK years ago? Coach Rupp received a new Cadillac and Coach Bryant received either a watch or a pen. That’s the way it is…..UK is a basketball school and UGA is a football school. No fault of either, just a fact! That being said, I hope that CMF is in Athens for the long haul, but who wouldn’t blame him if a better job offer would come around.

Dawg Bite

April 30th, 2012
5:34 pm

Sorry, should have been who would blame him about the job offer.


April 30th, 2012
7:38 pm

You idiot! Gregory doesn’t have restrictions on transfers. Why are you so slanted???

Paul in NH

April 30th, 2012
11:23 pm

I agree with Fox’ enlightened policy on transfers but he is really circling the wagons with the rest of the coaching fraternity when he talks about coaches also being bound to the school. Coaches contracts with schools may call for buy outs – but this is a freely negotiated quid pro quo for being paid millions of dollars. If a coach wanted to have no buy out, he could negotiate it – likely at a much lower salary. Student-athletes áre bound by rules and regulations that they did not negotiate and to which they have no alternative. It is a very different situation.

Paul in NH

April 30th, 2012
11:28 pm

Pity Phil Martelli isn’t a local HC – interviewing him on transfers would be interesting.


May 2nd, 2012
10:41 am

OK; can you not report on something else now? These articles stay stuck on here for days!! Need newer fresher info!! THANKS!!