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Proposed rule change would prevent hardship transfers from gaining immediate eligibility

Jeff Eisenberg
The Dagger

Amid complaints regarding the process of obtaining hardship waivers, the NCAA's Division I leadership council recommended a policy change on Friday intended to eliminate the criticism.

The proposed rule change would give athletes who transfer due to difficult life or family circumstances an extra year to complete their four years of eligibility but would strip them of the right to apply for immediate eligibility at their new school. Those athletes would instead have to sit out a full year before competing for their new school the way other transfers do.

The extra year of eligibility would likely only come into play in rare cases when an athlete transfers because of a hardship and has already used a redshirt year previously. In such situations, athletes would not forfeit a year of eligibility while sitting out after transferring because they would have six years to play four seasons instead of five.

“We hope this change will encourage student-athletes who must transfer based on hardships to focus on the circumstances prompting the transfer during their first year and adjust to their new school, while giving them a season back to complete their eligibility,” Amy Huchthausen, America East Conference commissioner and chair of the Leadership Council subcommittee, said in a release.

The reexamination of the transfer policy comes in response to intense scrutiny in recent years regarding how the NCAA determines which transfers are worthy of hardship waivers.

Many have complained that athletes abuse the spirit of the policy by embellishing a family tragedy in an attempt to gain immediate eligibility at their new school. Athletes who transfer because of insufficient playing time or issues with their coach will try to convince the NCAA that the real reason their changing schools is to be closer to an aunt or uncle who is ill.

At the same time, inconsistent decisions from the NCAA have also been a source of frustration.

Trey Zeigler received immediate eligibility at Pittsburgh in 2012 after transferring because his father was fired as Central Michigan's head coach, but the NCAA initially ruled last year that Kerwin Okoro had to sit out a full year despite transferring to Rutgers to be close to his mother after the death of his father and brother. National outcry eventually prompted the NCAA to reverse that decision and amend the rule to apply to the death of immediate family members in addition to those that are ill. 

The Division I Board of Directors will review the potential rule change on April 24 and it would go into effect by the start of the 2015-16 school year if approved.  

The greatest impact of the rule change would surely be diminishing the number of transfers each offseason. In college basketball, that number has regularly exceeded 500 the past few years.

Whereas the possibility of switching schools without having to sit out a full year has lured numerous athletes to transfer, that would no longer be an option if a hardship waiver doesn't grant immediate eligibility. As a result, athletes with a true hardship may still transfer but those who don't may feel more compelled to fight through difficult circumstances at their current school rather than leave at the first hint of adversity.

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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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