NC Attorney General, NCAA reach proposed settlement deal on transfer rule

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) — A proposed settlement reached on Thursday would permanently ease restrictions on Division I college athletes who have transferred schools multiple times—and would allow them to play immediately after changing teams within the NCAA system.

The judgment comes as the result of a settlement between N.C. Attorney General Josh Stein along with other attorneys general and the National Collegiate Athletic Association.

The agreement, which now moves to a U.S. District Judge for final approval, removes language from the NCAA’s transfer rule which the coalition of attorneys general found to be “an illegal restraint on athletes’ ability to pursue their best opportunities.”

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Outside of North Carolina, the state attorneys general who brought the action to court include those from Ohio, Colorado, Illinois, Minnesota, Mississippi, New York, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia and the District of Columbia. The U.S. Department of Justice also joined them.

The judgment comes eight months after a UNC wide receiver, Devontez “Tez” Walker was declared ineligible to play by the NCAA. The decision sparked outrage from many, including UNC football head coach Mack Brown who said, “Shame on you, NCAA. SHAME ON YOU!”

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The rule has been widely criticized and challenged beyond UNC, though.

The former phrasing of the rule required athletes who transferred among Division I schools to wait one year before competing in games unless they were granted a waiver. In 2021, the NCAA began to allow players to transfer one time and play immediately without penalty, but would have to sit out a year if they decided to transfer again.

This settlement requires the NCAA to not retaliate against schools that protested the rule, as well as award an extra year of eligibility to any player who lost a year due to the rule since 2019-2020. Meanwhile, the NCAA is also prohibited from taking future actions to circumvent the proposed settlement.

In a statement on Thursday, AG Stein said, “Student-athletes should have the same freedom that coaches, administrators, and other students have.” He added, “I’m pleased that the NCAA came to the table. Now, every student-athlete will be able to make whatever decisions are best for them.”

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As part of the judgment from Judge Bailey of the Northern District of West Virginia, the NCAA is now “forbidden” from enforcing the transfer rule through at least the 2024 spring sports season.

This comes during a chaotic time for the NCAA with several changes on the horizon for college sports, which includes another $2.8 billion settlement with the five power conferences that could directly lead to the schools themselves paying college players.

In April, the NCAA Division I Council adopted a new package of rule changes to grant all undergraduate athletes the opportunity to transfer and be immediately eligible to play, as long as they met the specific academic requirements. The legislation does not limit the number of times an athlete can transfer.

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