NCAA takes step toward allowing one-time transfers for athletes without sitting out

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Things are moving quickly in favor of college athletes on the topic of transferring. The NCAA's Transfer Waiver Working Group on Tuesday announced a concept is under consideration that would allow undergraduate student athletes in all sports to transfer once without sitting out of competition for one year. 

The concept comes on the heels of the an initial proposal from the Big Ten last year, which was publicly supported by the ACC on Monday. The three remaining Power Five conferences (Big 12, SEC, Pac-12) were expected to discuss the proposal at their respective spring meetings, according to CBS Sports' Dennis Dodd.

Adoption of such a rule would erase the disparity between transferring rules between athletes in men's and women's basketball, football, baseball and hockey from the rest of the NCAA-regulated sports.

Student-athletes across all sports would be able to transfer once as undergraduates without sitting out a year in residence so long as they: (a) receive a transfer release from their previous school, (b) leave their previous school academically eligible, (c) maintain their academic progress at the new school and (d) depart under no disciplinary suspension.

The current rule mandates that undergraduate transfers in the aforementioned sports must receive a waiver from the NCAA to be eligible immediately. 

"The current system is unsustainable. Working group members believe it's time to bring our transfer rules more in line with today's college landscape," said working group chair Jon Steinbrecher, commissioner of the Mid-American Conference. "This concept provides a uniform approach that is understandable, predictable and objective. Most importantly, it benefits students." 

The waiver process being utilized could allow a change to go into effect as early as this year.  

However, Steinbrecher told Dodd the transfer proposal is not a done deal. "It's got a ways to go," he said.

The working group will, at the minimum, submit a report to the council in April. Whether it will be a final report remains to be seen.

That the issue has gotten this far, less than a year since the Big Ten raised the concept, is amazing in the sluggish world of NCAA legislation. The NCAA Board of Directors put a moratorium on any transfer legislation in October.

Last month, CBS Sports first reported that the Big Ten had developed its proposal. Less than three weeks later, Tuesday's NCAA press release indicated a possible sea change in transfer legislation.

"Unsustainable" is the operative word that Steinbrecher mentioned. The NCAA's transfer rules have long been archaic, bureaucratic and too subjective for their own good.

While critics will lament a "free agency" or "slippery slope," the reality is more than one-third of all college students transfer at least once (per the NCAA), and the rulebook is established to give its members and coaches more power than the players.

Allowing a one-time transfer waiver streamlines a messy issue and, frankly, saves the schools from looking silly in the process. 

A former member of the NCAA Council, who did not wish to be identified, speculated to Dodd that the NCAA could be staging a legislative public relations gala at its next convention -- January 2021 in Washington, D.C. In the nation's seat of power, in front of the country's legislators -- some of whom seek to regulate the association -- the NCAA could trot out liberalized transfer rules and name, image and likeness legislation.

CBS Sports Writer

Ben Kercheval joined CBS Sports in 2016 and has been covering college football since 2010. Before CBS, Ben worked at Bleacher Report, UPROXX Sports and NBC Sports. As a long-suffering North Texas graduate,... Full Bio

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