Why/when a new transfer rule could have big effects on college hoops

By Matt Norlander | College Basketball Writer
Players with good grades stand to be rewarded by not having to sit a year if they transfer -- if a rule passes. (Getty Images)

There is a very strong possibility that the structure and legislation for players transferring in college basketball -- and all NCAA-sanctioned sports -- could change in the coming months.

If said legislation goes through, it would be a culture shift and very significant within the game. By way of the Bylaw Blog's John Infante comes news that, back in October, the NCAA's Leadership Council began brainstorming a plot to reward players who hold good GPAs, should they decide to transfer. Infante is both tapped into the NCAA's inner workings (he has worked as a compliance officer at two universities) and one of the most knowledgeable people out there when it comes to the ins and outs of its rules. The news immediately reverberated in college sports circles.

Here's what we're looking at. The basics: If any player has a 2.6 GPA or higher, he would not have to sit out the now-mandatory year after transferring to a new school. (It's known as a red-shirt season, and does not always apply, but does in most cases. This amendment to the transfer rule would loop in the largest pool of exceptions in history.)

So when will it go into effect? I talked to Infante on Friday afternoon, and he said the vote on this could/should pass by August. That would mean the effective date for kids who transfer with a 2.6 GPA or better would be in play by the start of the the 2014-15 academic year.

Why is this happening? Well, there's a general dissatisfaction with transfer rules among many within the NCAA. That includes players, coaches, administrators and, most notably, NCAA president Mark Emmert, who has complained publicly. Be it cases where permission to contact other schools have been denied (Bo Ryan) or releases have been withheld (Phil Martelli), the transfer rate is seen as problematic and, frankly, embarrassing. (Whether it should be is up for debate.)

Our own Jeff Goodman does all of us a great service by dutifully tracking the transfers each season -- last year, it bloated to almost 500. And because of the increased exposure and dialogue surrounding the culture, the NCAA naturally wants to curb it. Players transferring has become a mainstay topic in college basketball's offseason the last few years. But if this is going to alleviate redshirt seasons, why/how would this make the transfer rate go down?

"The short answer, more important answer: The NCAA isn't so much concerned with the rate of transfers," Infante said. "But if 100 percent of transfers graduated, I don't think the NCAA would care about it. The NCAA is primarily concerned with the fact that transferring is generally a negative event academically."

The NCAA is seeking a compromise of not having full-blown free agency in transfers yet still wants students to have some equity. Also, transferring tends to be a harmful thing for a student's academics. The idea is to reward transfers who excel in the classroom. Now, there are naturally some qualifications and proposed tweaks to the process, should new legislation get passed.

From Infante's post:

  • Athletes would still need to get permission to contact another school before transferring. But permission would be tied to practice and competition, not athletics aid. So even if permission were denied, the athlete would still be able to receive a scholarship.
  • Athletes who do not qualify to play immediately at the next school would still receive an extension of their five-year clock so they can use all their eligibility.
  • Tampering with an athlete by another school would be considered a severe breach of conduct, a Level I violation, the highest in the NCAA's new enforcement structure.

So players will still need their coach's consent to be given clearance to play elsewhere. (As linked above, this is precisely what didn't happen with the infamous Todd O'Brien case at Saint Joe's last season.) The tampering threats become especially serious. The trick part is actually proving the tampering, but we'll save that for another post. (According to Infante, the NCAA's belief is other coaches might be more willing to tattle on their peers with increased sanctions on tampering.)

"The fact they've gotten smoking-gun letters about AAU agents working in recruiting shows shows they're making inroads," Infante said.

One more question to answer: Why the 2.6 dividing line? Why not, say, an even 3.0 average? Because the 2.6 is based in NCAA research; it's the line where teams are docked APR points, should a player transfer. And that stems from research showing that, in the past, when players at a 2.6 or above transferred, there is a much closer graduation rate compared to all athletes as well as athletes who don't transfer. Make sense? Think of it as college sports' Mendoza Line.

So, here's the timeline:

-- October 2012: Leadership Council meets at NCAA headquarters in Indianapolis to organize new transfer model.

-- January 2013: NCAA convention in Dallas will bring about more discussion among the big brass.

-- April 2013: The Leadership Council will come up with an official proposal and get feedback in Indianapolis.

-- August 2013: The Council submits its rule changes to the NCAA's Board of Directors, who can approve it as part of new legislation in the NCAA's rulebook.

-- August 2014: The 2.6 GPA transfer rule takes effect.

This is really interesting and will immediately grab the attention of every college basketball coach across the country. Who's a good player with good grades whom we might be able to lure? It stands to reason that if we're to see a reduction in transfers, it would be this very much intended side effect: Kids with good GPAs get the transfer since they don't sit a year, while those in the 2.0-2.599 range can't play right away, so the market isn't as eager to seek them out nearly as frequently. Ergo, the players with lower GPAs could be more willing/likely to stick it out at their original school.

Stay tuned; college basketball's culture of transfers could, finally, be getting a lot smarter.


For more college basketball news, rumors and analysis, follow @EyeOnCBB on Twitter, like us on Facebook and subscribe to the thrice-a-week podcast on iTunes. You can follow Matt Norlander on Twitter here: @MattNorlander.

 
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