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The legacy of the Leticia Romero saga should be transfer reform

Jeff Eisenberg
The Dagger
Kansas St sticking by Romero transfer decision

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Kansas forward Chelsea Gardner, right, blocks a shot by Kansas State guard Leticia Romero, left, in the second half of a Big 12 women's NCAA college basketball tournament game in Oklahoma City, Friday, March 7, 2014. Kansas won 87-84 in overtime. (AP Photo/Sue Ogrocki)

Rather than enduring further browbeating from the local and national media, Kansas State instead bowed to public pressure and did the right thing Tuesday afternoon.

The school announced it will only restrict Leticia Romero from contacting other Big 12 programs as the women's basketball standout pursues a transfer destination.

Kansas State has come under fire from the likes of Jay Bilas, Dick Vitale and other college hoops luminaries for denying Romero's request to transfer in the wake of the firing of Deb Patterson, the coach who recruited the freshman from Spain. Without a release from Kansas State, Romero could have no contact with coaches from other Division I programs and would have to pay her own way at a new school next season, something she has said she was financially unable to do.

One of the reasons Kansas State reportedly was holding Romero hostage was because it believed Patterson and her staff were attempting to line up a new job by promising to bring Romero with them. The promise of landing Romero would have made hiring Patterson more appealing to athletic directors since the 5-foot-8 guard led Kansas State with 14.2 points, 5.8 rebounds and 5.0 assists as a freshman and shot 39.2 percent from behind the arc.

Kansas State's concerns were certainly understandable if school officials had evidence of tampering, but there are numerous ways the Wildcats could have handled the situation more fairly to Romero.

They could have initially barred Romero from contacting a handful of schools that showed interest in hiring Patterson and her staff. Or once Northern Colorado hired ex-Kansas State assistant Camie Ethridge and Patterson on April 28, they could have restricted Romero from contacting that staff but granted her release elsewhere.

That Kansas State did neither of those things suggests tampering concerns were only part of their rationale for not granting Romero's request.

School officials also probably didn't want to lose a player who already was one of of the Big 12's best and had three years of eligibility remaining. Then they surely were surprised by the national outcry that followed and dug in their heels for weeks, only reconsidering after wave after wave of negative PR.

Kansas State's blanket denial of Romero's transfer request is merely the latest example of schools abusing their power in attempt to keep top players from leaving. Wisconsin famously restricted standout freshman Jarrod Uthoff from contacting hometown Iowa State, rival Marquette, Florida and every school in the ACC and Big Ten two years ago. Jordan Clarkson faced even more stringent restrictions from Tulsa that same offseason, while Cole Huff initially couldn't contact the majority of major programs out West after deciding to leave Nevada earlier this spring. 

Hopefully the legacy of the Romero saga and others like it is that they serve as a catalyst for change. The NCAA needs to get rid of the rule altogether that allows coaches upset over being jilted by a player to dictate where he or she can transfer.

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Jeff Eisenberg is the editor of The Dagger on Yahoo Sports. Have a tip? Email him at daggerblog@yahoo.com or follow him on Twitter!

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