Proposal to let athletes transfer instantly after a coaching change picks up steam
Changes are coming to the NCAA's transfer rules; the only question is what they will be
Athletes would be allowed to transfer schools without restriction if their coach were fired or left for another job as part of sweeping proposal that is making its way through Division I, CBS Sports has learned. However, athletes would not be permitted to follow the departing coach to their new program.
The proposal, which originated from the Big 12, would also allow athletes to transfer without sitting out a season (as currently mandated by NCAA rules) in the event a postseason ban is handed down by the NCAA as punishment to their program.
The traditional academic "year in residence" for transfers in all other situations would still be in place and extended to every sport. Presently, that is only a requirement in five NCAA sports.
The proposal authored by the faculty athletic representatives at Baylor and Iowa State has received early support. Skeptics note it is merely a proposal, not the proposal. Still, the document shared with CBS Sports seems to be the most detailed offering to date as a means of fixing the NCAA's long-criticized transfer policies.
"Basically, we're saying kids can go anywhere they want," Iowa State athletic director Jamie Pollard said. "For the first time ever in college athletics, the student-athlete is empowered."
Changing the NCAA's entrenched transfer rules has become one of the most significant undertakings in the association's history.
Coaches have long been able to "block" where a transfer goes. Athletes also have to seek release from their scholarships to immediately get aid at another school. Frequently, they have to get "permission" from the school/coach to move on to their desired school.
Those practices would end if the aforementioned proposal is adopted.
"I haven't heard one person against [doing away with] the notification," Ohio State AD Gene Smith said.
The NCAA board of directors has basically mandated Division I to change its transfer rules in the next year.
An ongoing Division I Transfer Working Group is expected to push forward one or two proposals for legislation by June. The question then would be the effective date -- in time for either the 2018 or 2019 football seasons.
A source close to that situation stressed the preliminary nature of any proposals at the moment. The Big 12 proposal was finalized last month when conference officials met at the NCAA Convention in Indianapolis.
"Either try to accept [the process or] try to change it," Pollard said. "But quit bitching about it."
The Big 12 is in the process of distributing and talking up the proposal with other conferences. You can see the proposal here.
"I think it's a phenomenal idea," Pollard said. "There's holes in it. There will always be, but it's the best thing I've seen out there so far. It's a lot better than where we are heading."
Recent real-world examples show how sweeping such a rule change could be.
For example, players could have transferred from Florida State without restriction when Jimbo Fisher departed for Texas A&M in early December 2017 or when Rich Rodriguez was fired at Arizona on Jan. 2.
Those transferring players could not immediately follow the coach to their new school.
Rising seniors were allowed to transfer when the NCAA slapped Ole Miss with a second year of a postseason ban on Dec. 1, 2017. (The school had already self-imposed a one-year ban.) Under the proposal, any and all Ole Miss players could have departed for a new school without sitting out a year.
Currently, several transferring Ole Miss underclassmen are seeking waivers for immediate eligibility. There have been reports some of those players are basing their appeals on feeling they were misled by the school about the severity of the penalties.
Pollard admitted adjustments would have to be made in football recruiting limitations (25 scholarships per year) if a school lost transfers in any of the above scenarios.
Also, the subsequent impact on a departure to a school's Academic Progress Rate would have to be considered. Mass transfers could potentially put a program's postseason eligibility at risk.
Football and basketball coaches are currently concerned about possible "free agency," allowing athletes across the board to transfer without any restriction for any reason.
Men's basketball is arguably in crisis with a current transfer rate of 40 percent.
"It's a broken sport," a current Pac-12 AD told CBS Sports.
Anything still seems possible. The words "panic" and "wild, Wild West" we're tossed about by other AD types this weekend at the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics (NACDA) mid-winter meeting in Sanibel Island, Florida.
"I hear it's all over the board right now," Smith said.
The Big 12 proposal at least contains academic components that legitimize it.
Part of the proposal's credibility comes from its authors and their obvious research. Jeremy Counseller is a law professor at Baylor. Tim Day is an Iowa State professor of molecular pharmacology and member of the NCAA Council.
Part of the proposal calls for uniformity. In the traditional transfer setting, athletes are required to sit out a year in only five sports: baseball, hockey, football and men's and women's basketball. Under the proposal, transfers in all sports would be required to sit out a year in the event of a traditional transfer. That means volleyball, softball, wrestling athletes and others used to immediate transfers would now have to sit out.
"That's not why we're dealing with this issue," Pollard said. "We're dealing with it because of football and basketball. Can you name me one high-profile athlete that's been blocked in another sport? Now we're going to treat everybody equally. Empower the student-athlete but help them make a sound academic decision."
The possibility could suddenly exist that, in the same college career, a player could redshirt, transfer, sit out a year and transfer immediately. That player would not lose any of their four years of eligibility.
Yes, it could also create the possibility -- though not likely -- of a six- or seven-year player, the former of which we rarely see today usually due to injury.
"If you don't do that, people will just make the emotional decision that it's all about athletics," Pollard said. "This makes you actually stop and think about academics but doesn't stop you from making an athletic decision."
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