Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh in favor of first-time transfers not losing eligibility

Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh's week of saying things that capture attention came to an end on Friday during his annual press conference at Big Ten Media Days. Harbaugh, who earlier this week had some comments about former Ohio State coach Urban Meyer (and Harbaugh doubled-down on them Friday), expressed a sentiment you don't hear from most college football coaches.

When asked about the transfer of Oliver Martin, who recently transferred to Iowa, Harbaugh said all student-athletes should be allowed to transfer once without penalty.

"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. "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.

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

It was roughly 15 months ago that Harbaugh and Michigan benefitted from the NCAA allowing Shea Patterson to transfer from Ole Miss to Michigan and not have to sit out a season. Patterson's transfer came under different circumstances than most, but when asked at the time about the transfer situation in college football, Harbaugh said he hadn't spent much time thinking of how the NCAA should handle things. He even proposed an idea that would have schools compensated. 

"Maybe the school pays back the other school," said Harbaugh in April 2018. "Say a school like Michigan gets a player from Eastern Michigan or Central Michigan or transfers, maybe you have to pay the scholarship back, or maybe it counts as an extra scholarship. Just so it doesn't become free agency in college football. That's the thing I would worry about."

Of the two proposals, I would guess the NCAA would prefer the latest. Schools paying other schools for players might suggest that the players are worth money to the schools, and the NCAA would never want to admit that publicly because then it might have to allow players to be paid.

As for Harbaugh's one-time transfer idea, it's certainly not new, but you also don't hear a lot of coaches clamoring for it. It's an idea that makes a lot of sense and certainly seems fair. Students who aren't on athletic scholarships are free to transfer to new schools without having to sit out an academic year, and coaches can leave for a new job any time they please without being sidelined. It would only make sense that players be given the same opportunities as their fellow students and the people who coach them.

CBS Sports Writer

Tom Fornelli has been a college football writer at CBS Sports since 2010. During his time at CBS, Tom has proven time and again that he hates your favorite team and thinks your rival is a paragon of football... Full Bio

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