The NCAA’s Division I Council was busy this week, reviewing both long-awaited name, image and likeness legislation and a more recently introduced one-time transfer proposal to afford athletes immediate eligibility—with some expected restrictions. The proposed transfer legislation, obtained by Sports Illustrated on Tuesday, was sent to council members this week ahead of their Wednesday meeting for consideration alongside NIL in the NCAA’s 2020-21 legislative cycle.
The proposed transfer changes, crafted by the NCAA’s Working Group on Transfers, would eliminate the one-season waiting period many transfers must complete before competing as part of their new program. Current NCAA rules do not grant immediate eligibility to transferring athletes in Division I baseball, men’s and women’s basketball, football and men’s ice hockey, outside of those granted waivers.
The proposed changes would confer immediate eligibility upon athletes that declare their intention to transfer by a specific deadline: May 1 for fall and winter sport athletes and July 1 for spring sport athletes as well as those impacted by an end-of-year head coaching change or non-renewal of a scholarship. Athletes would still be allowed to transfer after those deadlines, but would not receive immediate eligibility.
The proposal contains some constraints, including prohibiting an athlete from competing for two schools in the same academic season, but affords other freedoms. Objections from an athlete’s previous school wouldn’t be allowed, nor would limitations on the number of transfer athletes a top-tier program can take outside of football, where the NCAA restricts the number of new players a program can welcome in any given year.
The change would also impact scholarship allocations. Transfer athletes, as the rules dictate today, still take up a scholarship slot—if offered—during their ineligible year on the new team’s roster (as long as they are academically eligible). For example, when former Marquette star Sam Hauser transferred to Tony Bennett’s Virginia, the Cavaliers announced he had signed a financial aid agreement with the program upon his commitment, despite heading into a sit-out year before playing his final season of college basketball. Had Hauser transferred under the new proposed guidelines for immediate eligibility, the decision to extend him an offer would have cost Virginia only one year of scholarship instead of two.
As Stadium’s Brett McMurphy first reported, the council approved the transfer proposal on Wednesday. If approved in the formal vote in January, as expected, the change will go into effect Aug. 1, 2021.
The same sort of one-time transfer waiver was on the table earlier this year as COVID-19 completely altered the college athletics landscape. The proposal would have allowed for immediate eligibility, as the newly introduced legislation does, but was put on pause in May until at least the 2021-22 academic year with affirmation that college sports’ governing body would still pursue legislation to create “uniform, modernized rules governing eligibility after transfer for student-athletes in all sports.”
The NCAA’s NIL rules would also create uniform, modernized athlete compensation allowances. Per the proposal, endorsement deals promoting commercial or other ventures as well as an athletes’ own products or services, activities including private lessons, camps and clinics, paid autograph sessions and personal appearances that occur at non-institutional games or events and limited financial solicitation through crowdfunding would be allowed—albeit almost all conditionally.
Use of school marks and affiliation is prohibited across the board, and both NCAA and school restrictions on endorsements would also exist. Anything that conflicts with a school’s existing sponsorship and partnership deals could be off the table for an athlete, and agent relationships would be limited to NIL dealings. All would be monitored by schools and third-party administrators.
The two proposals now introduced into the legislative cycle could be loosely linked. Name, image and likeness earning opportunities or available support systems at schools (like the branding and marketing agreements that many programs have put in place in recent months) could entice a player to join a particular program. And while most insiders do not expect subsequent mass transfers, there has been much discussion on recruiting impact—which the proposed transfer legislation would also touch. Utilizing fewer scholarship spots for ineligible transfers would free up funds and space for other additions to a team.