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Big Changes Are Being Proposed To Transfer Eligibility

Major changes could be coming to the way transfers are handled, and a couple of the proposed changes should worry smaller schools.

Getty Images - Thearon W Henderson

Major changes are being proposed to how player transfers are handled by the NCAA, and should they come to fruition, it could shake up the college football landscape.

The Division I Council Transfer Working Group met earlier this week in Indianapolis where they discussed several “concepts designed to create the best outcomes for both student-athletes and schools involved in the transfer process”.

Currently, when players transfer to another Division I school, they have to sit out a year in order to satisfy NCAA transfer rules. The lone exceptions to this is if the player is granted a hardship waiver and needs to move closer to home, or if the player is a graduate transfer. This systems sends several players to the JUCO ranks for a season in order not to give up a year of playing time.

That system is far from perfect, though. (Shocking, right?) The common sentiment is if coaches are free to change schools at will, why should players be restricted? Then, in the case of graduate transfers, there is nothing in place that actually encourages the player to receive their post-graduate degree once their eligibility is up. Further more, transfer rules are different for different sports. These are all things the committee would like to address.

Proposed changes include making all transfers immediately eligible if they hit certain academic standards, untying financial aid from the transfer process allowing student-athletes to transfer to a new school without first receiving a release from their current school, enacting stiffer penalties for coaches that have impermissible contact with players, and adding academic accountability for graduate transfers.

Untying Financial Aid

“One of the ideas posed is to modify permission to contact rules. Currently, Division I college athletes who wish to transfer to another school must first receive permission from their current school to talk with other schools about opportunities for transferring. If the school denies permission, the student-athlete can’t receive athletics aid after transferring.

“Group members believe financial aid should not be tied to whether a school grants permission to contact. They want to know if others in the membership feel the same way. The group also agreed that enhancements should be made to the formal process students use to notify a school of their desire to transfer. The group will seek input from the membership on appropriate enhancements.”

Academic Accountability For Graduate Transfer

“Another area of general agreement concerned the eligibility of students after graduation. The working group generally agreed that immediate eligibility for students competing after graduation is appropriate now, but the group expressed interest in identifying additional methods for holding the schools where  students may transfer accountable for the student’s academic progress.  One potential approach could be to require that the financial aid provided to graduate students count against a team’s scholarship limit for two years, regardless of whether the graduate student stays for two years or leaves when their eligibility is complete.

“Another concept for increasing that accountability is through the Academic Progress Rate calculation, specifically the eligibility and retention points for which a student would be held accountable as they pursue a graduate degree. The Committee on Academics discussed the calculation and the working group plans to continue conversations on the topic.”

Stiffer Penalties For Coaches

“The working group expressed concern regarding unethical behaviors related to coaches recruiting student-athletes currently playing at other four-year schools.

“The group expressed interest in increasing the consequences for coaches who break recruiting rules to seek out undergraduate and potential graduate students. The working group will ask the Committee on Infractions and enforcement staff to review the concept and provide feedback.”

Uniformity Of Transfer Rules & Player Eligibility

Establishing uniform transfer rules — which would require everyone to follow the same rules regardless of the sport they play — was a topic that the group agrees will likely take longer to resolve. While most members agreed the concept of uniformity would be positive, what the specific rules would be is less clear.

Members discussed two models: One model would require every transfer student to sit out a year to acclimate to a new school; the other would allow all transfers to play immediately provided they present academic credentials that predict graduation at the new institution.

These are simply proposed ideas at the moment, and some proposed rules are better than others. One, coaches shouldn’t be able to restrict where a player goes beyond that of a future opponent, and some would argue not even then. Also, placing some sort of accountability on graduate transfers makes sense, provided they don’t head off to the NFL.

However, some of the proposed rules could radically change college football. Making players immediately eligible could create a feeding frenzy on smaller schools by the blue bloods of college athletics. The fear is, placing harsher punishment on coaches for impermissible contact would do little to curb it.

Think about this, if a perennial national championship contender has an immediate need at a position, it would be understandably tempting for a high-caliber player from a lesser school to pack his bags. It would be the equivalent of Kevin Durant heading to Golden State. Only, without a salary cap to worry about.

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