Division I Council OKs one-time transfer rule
Athletes would not lose a year of eligibility, play immediately
The NCAA Division I Council has approved the expansion of the one-time transfer rule that would allow undergraduate athletes the ability to transfer to another school without losing a year of eligibility.
The legislation still needs to ratification by the Division I Board of Directors, which meets April 28.
“Allowing student-athletes a one-time opportunity to transfer and compete immediately provides a uniform, equitable and understandable approach that benefits all student-athletes,” said council vice-chair Jon Steinbrecher, who chairs the Working Group on Transfers and is commissioner of the Mid-American Conference. “The decision is consistent with Division I’s goal of modernizing its rules to prioritize student-athlete opportunity and choice.”
The new rules impact athletes who play baseball, football, men’s and women’s basketball, and men’s ice hockey.
Athletes interested in taking advantage of the new legislation would have to provide written notification to their institution by May 1 for fall and winter sports and July 1 for spring sports. But the council approved a blanket waiver for this year that sets the date for all student-athletes as July 1.
Previously, athletes who wanted to transfer and play immediately needed a hardship waiver from the NCAA.
Former Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields needed a one-time exemption after transferring from Georgia as a freshman in 2018. Fields guided the Buckeyes to a semifinals spot in the College Football Playoff in 2019. He finished his career with a 20-2 record at Ohio State.
But it was the randomness of the waiver process that troubled players and coaches.
Offensive lineman Brock Hoffman transferred from Coastal Carolina to Virginia Tech after the 2018 season to be closer to his ill mother but the NCAA denied his waiver request.
He sat out all of 2019 before taking the field in 2020.
The new legislation requires transferring athletes to meet academic requirements as well as provide confirmation from both the athlete and the new coach that no tampering took place during their recruitment. Schools cannot object to where an athlete wants to transfer.
Todd Berry, who is the executive director of the American Football Coaches Association, has been on the front lines of the debate surrounding the one-transfer rule. Berry believes there will be unintended consequences that come from the passing of this proposal, particularly with the upcoming name, image and likeness legislation.
“It’s not just the one-time transfer, it’s the one-time transfer in conjunction with the NIL,” explained Berry. “As we’ve all seen, all the states have already [passed] or are developing NIL legislation because they recognize there’s a huge recruiting advantage to this.
“The idea of developing a team or developing players, that’s going out the window because all of a sudden it’s about buying players. Now you’re talking about an NFL model where you’re not developing anybody; you’re assimilating a team every year.”
Berry warns the new legislation could open the door to coaches recruiting established players in the portal rather than signing players out of high school.
“With the one-time transfer, what is the motivation for a coach to recruit somebody out of high school? I think this is a shame for high schools,” said Berry. “The most opportune thing for a coach to say is I’m going to recruiting everyone out of the portal because they can’t leave.”
There are currently more than 1,800 football players in the transfer portal.
“I think it’s going to happen and everybody knows that,” new UCF coach Gus Malzahn said of the possible move following the team’s spring game on Saturday. “It’s just the reality.”
“We’re going to have a summer of free agency where you’re not going to know who is on your team until Aug. 1,” added Berry.
Athletes will still be able to rely on those hardship waivers from the NCAA, opening up the possibility for some to transfer multiple times without penalty.
The American Athletic Conference joined the Atlantic Coast Conference and the Mid-American Conference in being among the first leagues to eliminate their intraconference transfer policies.