NCAA considers tying transfer eligibility to academic marks
By RALPH D. RUSSO
The NCAA is considering allowing athletes who are doing well in the classroom to transfer with immediate eligibility and permitting incoming freshmen to back out of a national letter of intent if there is a head coaching change.
The NCAA's Division I transfer working group concluded two days of meetings on Tuesday in Indianapolis. Justin Sell, the group chairman and athletic director at South Dakota State, said the group examined data on how transferring impacts academics as it develops concepts for rule reforms that could be presented to coaches, administrators and student-athletes for feedback.
The group will meet again in April and plans to have a model it can present to NCAA membership for comment. The goal is to present a proposal for the Board of Governors to consider for approval in June.
The NCAA would like to create uniformity in transfer rules, instead of rules that currently change from sport to sport and conference to conference. In some sports such as golf and volleyball, athletes already can use a one-time exception to transfer without sitting out a season at the new school. In basketball and football, they must sit out or request a waiver from the NCAA.
The working group has already made significant progress toward changing the transfer process from a permission to a notification model. An athlete would no longer need to be granted permission from a current coach to contact other schools about transferring. And schools could not prevent a transferring student from receiving financial aid, essentially blocking a transfer, or dictate where an athlete transfers.
The NCAA has also moved toward strengthening rules against tampering in the hope of preventing coaches from recruiting players under scholarship at other schools.
The last piece is possibly the most contentious: When can an athlete transfer and be immediately eligible?
"We've never had a model on the table that would allow someone to transfer and play immediately without anything tied to it," Sell said. "We also are not considering any model that has all the student-athletes have to sit out with no exceptions."
Noah Knight, a former University of Missouri-Kansas City basketball player who is on the working group, said student-athletes are not looking to create free agency, where athletes can transfer with no restrictions.
"But they do want a space where it could give them little bit of flexibility," Knight said.
Sell said the group discussed setting a benchmark grade-point average of 3.0 that would allow an athlete to transfer without sitting out a season at the new school.
"But the committee on academics is going to need to kind of help us figure out how the mark aligns with a graduation rate and some other pieces to that, too," Sell said.
The concept of allowing a one-time exception for athletes when the head coach of their teams change was also discussed by the working group. Big 12 representatives put forth a possible model that would allow all athletes to transfer with immediate eligibility after a head coaching change.
Notably, when the NCAA posted a news release about the transfer group's meeting it highlighted a more narrow version of that concept.
Currently, a recruit who signs a national letter of intent cannot break that agreement without losing a year of eligibility. The group wants to consider changing that to allow the athlete to switch schools if a coaching change is made after the NLI is signed.
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Updated February 13, 2018