Potential Changes to Student-Athlete Transfer Rules

Kaitlyn E. Collyer

Author: Kaitlyn E. Collyer

POST DATE: 3.2.18
Ccha  Sports Law

In early September (2017), the NCAA announced that it was beginning to seek member input on its transfer rules.  The current rules require student-athletes who participate in “revenue sports” (baseball, basketball, football or men’s ice hockey) to complete a year in residence before they are eligible to play at their new school. The rules also require any student-athlete to receive written permission from their current school before he or she may contact a new school about transferring.   

Attention to the new transfer rules seems to have gained ground from a Student-Athlete Advisory Committee (“SAAC”) proposal from summer 2017.  SAAC serves as the student-athlete voice on campuses as well as at the national level.  Nationally, the group recommends potential NCAA legislation and solicits student-athlete opinions back in their home conferences and institutions.  In July, the group proposed eliminating the rule requiring a student-athlete to get permission from his current school – he would simply have to notify the school of his intent to transfer.

SAAC proposed that all student-athletes would get a one-time opportunity to transfer schools without fulfilling a year in residence during their undergraduate years.  Further, a student-athlete would be permitted to transfer to an intra-conference school (which many conferences currently prohibit), but would still be required to sit out for one year.

The NCAA Division I working group undertaking the inquiry into the potential rule change expounded upon SAAC’s proposal.  The group indicated that the new transfer rules would be more clearly tied to academics.  If a student-athlete meets the required academic benchmarks, he or she would be eligible to transfer with immediate eligibility.  After meeting mid-February 2018, the current proposal may include minimum 3.0 GPA and the student-athlete would have to be on track to graduate within 5 years at the new school.  The working group made it clear that the student-athlete transfers would not be able to compete at two different schools during the same academic year. Any athlete who does not meet these requirements to compete immediately after transfer will be allotted 6 years to complete 4 years of eligibility instead of the current rule which allows 5 years.   Additionally, they emphasized that PSA’s who have signed their National Letter of Intent would be allowed to transfer and play immediately if the head coach leaves the school. 

This shift in philosophy seems to follow two current trends in college sports.  First, with the passage of the Time Management Policy (Click here to view 07/06/2017 CCHA post), the NCAA and its member institutions have shown a greater interest in accommodating student-athletes’ rights and ensuring that student-athletes have similar scholastic opportunities to their non-student-athlete peers.  Second, as proposed, the rule change would follow the trend to simplify the rulebook.  Bylaw 13 (Recruiting) has undergone several changes over the last few years, one of which is the electronic communication rule, which has now been made uniform across all sports.

Contact CCHA if you have questions regarding this or other legislation changes and how they might affect your compliance operation. CCHA sports law attorneys have experience working with NCAA institutions and coaches to educate them and their staff on NCAA rules compliance. We have helped several schools implement a plan to keep their head coaches compliant with NCAA regulations while still remaining competitive within their respective sport.  

For more information about Katie and CCHA’s sports law practice, please visit her profile.