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Football Transfers: When Do They Matter?

By Phil Terrigno
On February 17, 2011

  • Although the Marist football program does not typically rely on transfer students, former quarterback Chris Debowski started after transferring from Orange Coast College. Caitlin Nolan

Alex Irastorza has achieved the improbable. After not appearing in a game during the 2009 and 2010 Marist College football seasons, the kicker has transferred to the University of Miami and is officially a member of the Hurricanes football team after being accepted as a preferred walk-on.

By leaving the football obscurity of the Northeast for the talent-laden South, Irastorza is making a journey that may appear unusual.

However, it's certainly not. College football players transfer, often for personal gain, after disliking one or several parts of their former institution.

To the college football programs that receive these new players, do transfers matter?

That depends on the level of football.

Division I-FCS

Recruits that come directly from high school are the lifeblood of the Marist football program, not transfers.

"We do not actively look for transfers to recruit," Marist head coach Jim Parady said. "What we do is if somebody contacts us, then after they give us their release, we certainly look at their situation and see if they are going to fit what we are currently looking for in our recruiting class."

This is partially due to the school's rigorous academic standards, complications that can arise from credit transfer and the difficulty acquiring on-campus housing.

"We're non-scholarship in the PFL (Pioneer Football League), compared to a kid who's sitting there on a football scholarship on a CAA (Colonial Athletic Association) school," Parady said. "They know that if they leave that institution, they're leaving dollars on the table."

With few exceptions, the Marist program is neither bolstered by or suffers a detriment from transfer players.

Recent two-year starter at quarterback Chris Debowski, joined the Red Foxes after competing at Orange Coast College.

Michael Cox and OlobemiOfulaja are two players that left Marist to continue their playing careers at Syracuse and Maryland, respectively.

"I don't like to look back on what could have been once they're gone," associate head coach and defensive coordinator Scott Rumsey said. "Those are two guys that I can point to that were starters for us and transferred."

Division II

A move from FBS or FCS to Division II might not appear to be on most player's agendas, but certain D-II programs thrive on transfers.

One such player is Alex Muzii, a former defensive back and Florda native, who had joined Valdosta State University (VSU) in Valdosta, Georgia.

A member of the Gulf South Conference (GSC), VSU has won D-II national championships in 2004 and 2007 and is scheduled to play a game versus Angelo State University at Cowboys Stadium in 2012.

Muzii appeared in seven games during his two years as a Red Fox, making four tackles.

"I was really getting homesick and I wanted to come back south," Muzii said. "Not even being a starter, I felt like I never really got the chance to play on special teams. For most of the games I didn't travel."

Many athletes who want to transfer choose to join D-II powerhouses since they do not lose a year of eligibility and can play immediately.

Lateral jumps from one FBS school to another or from a lower level to FBS require the athlete to sit out for a year.

Jumps down the college football ladder, such as transferring from FBS or FCS to a lower level do not result in a one-year penalty due to NCAA rules.

"It's not that they take [football] more seriously here, it's just the way they approach it," Muzii said. "Down here, its mostly speed training because of the temperature. Being up north, Marist is 'get in the weight room and get as big as possible.'"

Division I- FBS

"A whole week would go by and I would get maybe one rep in practice [at Marist]," Irastorza said. "At Marist, they are football coaches and I respect all of the decisions that they made."

If playing time was Irastorza's sole motivation instead of simply joining his favorite childhood college football team, transferring to UM might not have been the easiest route to take.

Since most of the 85 scholarships that FBS football programs are allotted are given to four-year recruits, walking on to a major college program can be an unlikely endeavor.

"It's so tough that Miami only brings in about six walk-ons per season," Kory Kozak wrote in an column published in 2009.

UM officials have not confirmed this number and the program is in the midst of a head-coaching swap.

"[New] head coach Al Golden has a different approach to walk-ons and will bring in many more than previously under Randy Shannon," Associate AD for Communications UM Chris Freet wrote in an email. "We do not have an institutional number that is given to the football program as a guideline."

Irastorza is currently filing an appeal to the NCAA in an attempt to avoid sitting out one season due to transfer regulations.

"The coaches have said to me that they are also rallying for me to get the appeal," Irastorza said. "They said, 'we want you to be eligible for this year. We're really excited about how you're kicking and how you're punting.' I'm going to be playing in the spring game.

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