Momentum is gaining for a rule change that would allow student-athletes to transfer to another school once without sitting out for a season.
Presently, athletes in football, men’s basketball, women’s basketball, baseball and hockey are required to sit out for a season when they transfer to a new school. Athletes in all other sports can participate immediately.
There are exceptions for athletes in those five sports who have graduated and others who — for one reason or another — receive waivers for immediate eligibility. But, for the most part, transferring athletes sit on the sideline for a season before being eligible to play for their new school.
Two power conferences, the Big Ten and ACC, are looking to change that.
The Big Ten led the charge by introducing legislation last year. The proposal would allow an athlete in any sport to transfer once in their career without sitting out for a season at their new school. Several conference athletic directors went on the record about the issue late last month.
On Monday, the ACC followed suit by voicing its unanimous support for the proposal.
“During the league’s annual winter meetings (Feb. 12-14), the ACC discussed the transfer environment and unanimously concluded that as a matter of principle we support a one-time transfer opportunity for all student-athletes, regardless of sport. As a conference, we look forward to continuing the discussion nationally,” the ACC said in a statement.
Last month, Michigan athletic director Warde Manuel told CBS, which first reported the Big Ten’s proposal, that allowing first-time transfers to play right away was “the right thing to do.” Manuel said the proposal was in the interest of fairness for the athletes from the five sports affected.
"We have five sports that are not allowed to transfer in this day and age. That is something we need to fix," Manuel said. "We need to give all young people flexibility to transfer once. If they transfer a second time, there is no waiver.”
Transfer rules friendlier for student-athletes
The common opposing viewpoint on this issue is comparing immediate-eligibility transfers to free agency in professional sports. But with the rules on graduate transfers — an athlete with his or her degree can compete immediately at a new school — and the increasing frequency with which the NCAA approves immediate-eligibility waivers, one could argue such movement of players is already part of these sports.
The introduction of the NCAA transfer portal made things friendlier for student-athletes. Before it was created in October 2018, athletes needed permission from their school to pursue a transfer. Now, if a football player wants to transfer, he simply informs the compliance office at his or her school and his name will appear in a database hours later.
The database allows the athlete to be contacted by coaches at other universities. Previously, the athlete’s school could outright block a transfer or place restrictions on the schools the athlete could potentially transfer to.
What’s the timetable for a potential change?
According to CBS, the Big Ten’s proposal was last updated in Oct. 2019 before the NCAA’s board of directors implemented a moratorium on transfer-related legislation on Nov. 1. The moratorium means the rule cannot be considered for the 2019-20 legislative calendar.
That means the proposal likely cannot be considered until 2021.
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