Jim Harbaugh supports immediate eligibility for athletes transferring for first time

Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh thinks players should be able to freely transfer one time. (AP)
Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh thinks players should be able to freely transfer one time. (AP)

Jim Harbaugh is one of the most unique coaches in college football. And his stance on transfers is pretty unique among coaches too. At least publicly.

The Michigan coach said Friday that he supported the ability for athletes to transfer without having to sit out a season. While numerous coaches have derided a potential “free agency” situation when it comes to transfers in college sports — here’s looking at you, Nick Saban — Harbaugh is the most prominent college football coach to come out and say that players shouldn’t have to sit out a year upon their first transfer.

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“My opinion is that every student-athlete should have a one-time ability to transfer and not have to sit out a year,” Harbaugh said Friday at Big Ten media days. “And then if they were to transfer a second time then the previous rule that we had where you had to sit out a year of eligibility and with that I would also keep the graduate transfer rule that we have in place right now where you can transfer and become immediately eligible.”

Undergraduate transfers currently have to sit out a year when they transfer from one school to the next, though the NCAA has a waiver process that has seemingly become more inconsistently lenient recently. Quarterbacks Justin Fields (Georgia to Ohio State) and Tate Martell (Ohio State to Miami) were granted waivers to play immediately at their new schools in 2019.

“It would be good to just have [it] clear, concise, where everybody understands what the ramifications are,” Harbaugh said. “I think that would be a fair way to proceed.”

The NCAA has loosened transfer rules in recent years; players can freely transfer from a school that has received a postseason ban or had a head-coaching change. But there are still more changes that can be made and Harbaugh’s suggestion is fair.

A rule like that would have allowed Illinois transfer Luke Ford to play immediately with the Illini instead of having to sit out 2019. Ford transferred to Illinois from Georgia so that his ailing grandfather could see him play. But Ford didn’t get an immediate eligibility waiver from the NCAA.

Illinois coach Lovie Smith was asked about the NCAA’s transfer rules on Thursday and he too advocated for more transparency.

“You know, maybe more transparency as much as anything on how the process kind of goes a little bit when you deny it or grant it, you need – immediate eligibility a little bit would maybe help it,” Smith said.

”As far as — sometimes divorce is a good thing in life in general, so for players to take that approach and have an opportunity to move on, as long as we're all going by the same rules, I'm OK with whatever we have in place and OK with the current rules that we have in place. We had a couple players, of course, that were denied that are good football players. Eventually those players will get a chance, Luke Ford being one of those players. Luke Ford will eventually play three years for the University of Illinois, so we'll wait our time for him.”

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Harbaugh: Nothing ‘new’ in comments about Meyer

Harbaugh didn’t back down from what he said about former Ohio State coach Urban Meyer in a podcast published Thursday by The Athletic.

In the podcast, Harbaugh said that, “Urban Meyer's had a winning record. Really phenomenal record everywhere he's been. But also, controversy follows everywhere he's been.”

There was no follow-up question to Harbaugh’s quote on that “TK Show” podcast. Friday gave Harbaugh the opportunity to follow up when he was asked about its context.

“I don’t think it was anything new or anything of a bombshell. Things that many of you all understand and have written about.”

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Nick Bromberg is a writer for Yahoo Sports.

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