Let's briefly recap the past week's events. Former Rutgers QB Tom Savage, intent on transferring, withdrew from school for the spring semester. Negotiations start behind closed doors, before Savage's father starts talking to the press over the weekend (possibly being misquoted in the process). A Rutgers athletic department official gives their side of the story, without elaborating on the exact reasons for granting only a partial release. Presumably, the next step now is to wait for Savage's faculty appeal to go through next week.
In a vacuum, no revenue sport program should deny any transfer request provided (a) all proper procedures and guidelines were followed, and (b) the programs involved are not scheduled to play in the near future. In practice, programs often use criteria that are far more stringent. However, those restrictions only serve to further skew the balance of power in college athletics away from student-athletes and towards powerful institutions, which is regrettable considering how lopsided the equation already is. Each individual case has its own specific set of facts and circumstances, but as a general rule it's probably wise to side with the weaker party in these cases. The Rutgers athletic department is receiving criticism for restricting Savage’s transfer in this context.
The worry then is to not rush to judgment, overcompensating to the existing unfair power balance to such an extent that both sides are not given fair consideration. Perhaps more information will come out. Maybe all parties involved will settle the matter behind closed doors in short order. The Rutgers athletic department is certainly not doing itself any favors by not publicly articulating their case here.
Hypothetically though, if their actions were warranted, Rutgers would have to weigh the hit from staying mostly silent against any consequences that would come from speaking up. They are not in an enviable position right now, and must above all else exercise proper discretion (somehow being both judicious and decisive). Most of the criticism on this matter has not displayed nearly enough empathy on this point. At the very minimum, everyone should let the appeals process play out before fully forming their opinions. In summary: the critics are not necessarily right or wrong, but for now they are being too hasty.
On that note, there is one question that should be asked of any Rutgers football fan still peeved at Tom Savage. Some amount of lingering resentment or disappointment is understandable, if not warranted. However, this is specifically addressed at those who support restricting his transfer IF the program does not turn out to have just cause. If you believe that Savage is in the wrong, and should suck it up and go to low-level BCS program or a mid-major, how is this instance different from what Bryan Fortay went through nearly two decades ago?
For those who are not familiar with Bryan Fortay, he was a star quarterback prospect from East Brunswick who enrolled at Miami in 1989. Eventually he wanted to transfer home to Rutgers, although for a time the Hurricanes would not release him (albeit, for very unique reasons). Consistently, athletic programs are either always within the right to restrict releases, or ought to be more charitable to players transferring out. I support the latter position, but don't necessarily see a problem with the former as long as it is consistently applied. Can anyone who thinks Tom Savage should accept the supposed list of 17 schools explain why this case is different from Fortay's, beyond Rutgers and Miami reversing roles? I'm genuinely curious, and would love to read a spirited rebuttal if anyone is up for it even if to say call this analogy preposterous.