NCAA proposal that would curtail graduate transfers not expected to pass

An under-the-radar NCAA proposal that would at least slow the 13-year-old graduate transfer movement faces a vote this week. Its passage looks unlikely.

Proposal 2018-106 would require any program accepting a graduate transfer in football, men's basketball or women's basketball to commit to a scholarship for two years rather than one. (The second-year commitment would disappear if the transfer completed their graduate degree in the first year.)

If a transfer did not complete their graduate degree in that first year and ran out of NCAA eligibility, a program would have a "dead" scholarship that second year.

Since the rule debuted in 2006, athletes who chose to use their final year of eligibility as a graduate transfer would leave one school to pursue that graduate degree at another.

At issue: Should the accomplishment of that pursuit matter? The proposal, say several experts, is unreasonable.

"If you want to disincentivize [graduate] transfers, that's fine, but don't do it by saying, 'If you get done in a year, the second year doesn't count,'" said Tim Day, Iowa State's faculty athletics representative.  

The graduate transfer rule has been criticized by coaches and academicians for gaming the system. Any athlete who completes their undergraduate degree and has NCAA eligibility remaining can transfer largely without resistance to complete their eligibility at another school. An athlete can transfer as a graduate student and receive financial aid at the new school, but in certain circumstances, can't be eligible immediately.

Passage of the proposal "would substantially curtail," graduate transfers, Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby told CBS Sports.

And thus, it would impact a culture that has risen up within college sports. GradTransferTracker.com showed 114 such transfers in football's four divisions for 2019.

The proposal, if passed, would go into effect Aug. 1. It is expected to be voted on during an NCAA Council meeting this week. The 32 Division I conferences will each vote. Voting is weighted to the larger conferences.

Based on recent conversations, at least the Big 12 and AAC are thought to be against the proposal.

Within the proposal itself, the NCAA's Committee on Academics states it has "concern with [the] overall concept."

The NCAA Women's Basketball Oversight Committee stated it would like "more data" on the subject.

"Absent more study, [passage] doesn't sound very realistic to me," Vanderbilt athletic director Malcolm Turner told CBS Sports.

The NCAA encourages -- but does not require -- athletes complete an undergraduate degree program. However, an increasing number of critics have noted the one-and-done nature on the back end for graduate transfers. They are required only to enroll in a viable graduate degree program.

Basketball would be most impacted because of the limited number of scholarships -- 13 for men, 15 for women.

NCAA research showed that 40 percent of Division I basketball players transfer before the end of their sophomore years. Texas Tech used two graduate transfers to get to the NCAA basketball title game last week -- Tariq Owens and Matt Mooney, the latter of whom was on his third school.

In football, an annual graduate transfer market springs up after each season. Some coaches refer to it as "free agency." This offseason was highlighted by several graduate transfer quarterbacks -- among them Kelly Bryant (Clemson to Missouri) and Jalen Hurts (Alabama to Oklahoma) -- changing teams.

"This [proposal] has been in the works for a while," said Gregg Clifton, a Phoenix-based attorney. "The concern, frankly, is you're seeing kids not doing it for the right reason. They're not doing anything to pursue a degree. They've come up with this measure as a way to say, 'You're not going to get away with this. You're going to do it. It's going to cost you two years of scholarships.'"

Clifton is co-leader of the collegiate and professional sports practice of the Jackson Lewis law firm. He assists schools and athletes in matters of NCAA legislation.

One-year graduate programs are available, but they require condensed, intense study. Day said the one-year program at Iowa State would mean a student attending class from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. "every day for a year to get your master's degree."

A quick check of the top one-year online graduate degree programs shows those "one-year" courses of study actually last 12-24 months.

"To make the broad stroke that anyone who doesn't have a degree in a year [is penalized], that was a little troublesome to me," Clifton added.

Clifton did say he thinks the proposal will pass.

The proposal went largely unnoticed until CBS Sports and the New York Times reported on its existence earlier this month. It was proposed last fall by the NCAA Transfer Working Group. 

CBS Sports Senior Writer

Dennis Dodd has covered college football for CBS Sports since it was CBS SportsLine in 1998. He is one of only seven media members to attend all 16 BCS title games and has chronicled conference realignment... Full Bio

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