Let's set the record straight for one second. Jeff Graham wasn't the first player to transfer teams in the Frontier Conference, and he won't be the last.
But as of last week, it looks like those people transferring teams within the conference will have to sit out a year before competing.
In a surprise, the league coaches voted 12-2 in favor of a rule that would force any players transferring to another school within the conference to sit out a season from competition. The player would still be able to practice with the team, but could not play in games for the entire season.
It's a surprise because two years ago Montana State University-Northern head coach Shawn Huse, Westminster head coach Tommy Connor and Lewis-Clark State coach George Pfeiffer pushed for the this same rule.
"I was shocked," Huse said. "I think it got voted down by the same margin two years ago."
Huse wasn't able to be in attendance for the meeting, but he called conference commissioner Ron Kenison and told him what his votes would be on the meeting agenda, including an obvious "yes" for the transfer rule.
"This something that I think the league needs," he said. "The NCAA has this rule and most conferences in NAIA also have the rule. We are one o of the few that didn't."
Some people have portrayed Graham as the poster boy for the proposed rule because he has transferred twice in the conference. In the Associated Press story, Graham's name was the first mentioned in the story. Because he has transferred three times within the conference, most people assume that the rule was created with him specifically as an example.
Those assumptions are wrong because people don't know the background.
Graham started his career here at Northern, coming off the bench as a true fresham. However, he decided to leave after head coach Brian Harrell resigned amid allegations of theft from the program.
He then headed to Carroll College, where he redshirted a year and played a year for the Saints. Graham then transferred to UM-Western, where he played for the Bulldogs this year, starting every game and averaging seven points and four assists per game. He will finish his career in Dillon next season.
Obviously, Graham's collection of practice jerseys is extensive, but that doesn't mean he should be vilified or used as an example. He was simply working within his right as an athlete in the Frontier Conference. There was no rule saying he couldn't transfer or how many times. There were no rule or repercussions for when he did transfer.
Now there is, and for the conference, it is a good thing.
In fact, the entire transfer phenomenon was starting get out of hand before Graham ever left Northern.
When Graham transferred to Carroll from Northern, he was part of a group of three transfers that included UM-Western's leading scorer Randy Ranalli and Montana Tech's leading scorer Newell Roche making the switch to the Saints.
Since this year's season has ended, Rocky Mountain College's Wes Morales and Kellen Ori have transferred to UM-Western.
The trend isn't just limited to the boys' side as former HHS standout Jayla McPherson transferred from the University of Great Falls to MSU-Northern, while two Northern players - Laura Keaster and Sheena Darlington - are headed to UGF.
But after this year, look for the number of transfers to decrease significantly.
"We just couldn't keep letting all the transferring within the conference happen," Huse said. "It was starting to develop some bad blood and bad feelings between teams and coaches. We weren't out to stop it completely, we just needed some type of deterrent to keep it from happening too often."
But one thing Huse wants the new rule to have is an appeals process for negating the one-year sit-out policy in extraordinary situations, particularly if player's coach decides to leave or is fired.
"I think there are definitely situations that would make players exempt from the rule," he said. "I know, often times, that players' decisions to go to school are directly related to the coach."
Indeed, in coaching changes there is guarantee of playing time for any player returning to the team. The new coach can bring a totally new system and his own players with him. In that circumstance, if a player has a chance to go to a place they know they can fit in, you can't punish them.
Look at this year's Skylights players. They have no idea what's in store for them. When they should be worrying about summer tans and swimming suits, they have to worry about a new coach's temperament and philosophy. If a coach can just up and leave and coach the next year, his former players should be able to do the same.
Of course, there are other scenarios where a player shouldn't have to sit out. If a player is cut from the program, they should be exempt. And in some way, if a player wants to change directions academically and their current school doesn't offer it, there should be some considerations. After all, none of these players are looking at playing professionally after graduation.
For people who truly care about the success of sports in the Frontier Conference, this new rule will make things better.
But if you're looking for poster boys or girls for this rule, don't use Jeff Graham or anybody who transferred in the past.
Instead, go for one of the people who has been behind the rule all along. How about Shawn Huse as the poster boy for the rule. He won't mind. Just don't let him wear a speedo.