NCAA Football: Are Transfer Rules Meant to Hinder Football Powers?

Eric EdwardsContributor IIIAugust 21, 2012

Former Auburn standout Michael Dyer was forced to transfer to a D1-AA school in order to play immediately.
Former Auburn standout Michael Dyer was forced to transfer to a D1-AA school in order to play immediately.Butch Dill/Getty Images

Of all of the gross hypocrisies of the NCAA and its incoherent rules, the most glaring to most fans are the transfer rules. This was brought into the light of day during the last NCAA basketball season when Bo Ryan was widely criticized for blocking the transfer options for a little-used freshman forward.

Ryan’s actions set off a firestorm of indignation that eventually led to his granting the player his release and lifting the most onerous restrictions on his transfer options. Once that was done the issue slowly drifted out of sight, not to be mentioned again…until the next coach tries to pull the same stunt.

That case was not exactly an aberration, although the media coverage of it certainly was. The story took on a life of its own and rightly brought serious scrutiny down on the practice of limiting transfer options for players.

What was missed, in my opinion, was the opportunity to look beyond that case and take a look at the more common practice of players being allowed to become immediately eligible for a sport if they transfer down a level.

The NCAA rule governing immediate eligibility is called the One-Time Transfer Exception and states in part that to be immediately eligible, a student athlete must be transferring to another four-year school in a sport other than Division I basketball, football, or ice hockey unless the player transfers from D1A to D1AA.

Now, does such a rule make any sense to you? It doesn’t to me, mainly because I don’t know the intent of the transfer rules.

Why create a rule that forces players to sit out a year, with the exception of if they go down a level? Aren’t all the D1 schools D1? I know there are differences between the big schools and the smaller ones, but don’t they all have to follow the rules of the same NCAA Manual?

You see, I was talking to my brother about this situation and he made a point that I have made about other NCAA rules, but had never thought of in this context: This is the type of garbage that happens when you allow the smaller colleges and universities to help write the rules that govern the larger schools.

Honestly, who benefits from such a rule if not the smaller schools? By having this type of rule in place the smaller schools are allowed access to talent they never would have been able to get, and the prestige that comes with that talent. And talent + prestige = money for the smaller schools.

Think about it realistically, and you’ll probably come around to my attitude on this issue. Who gets the benefits of Rhett Bomar transferring to Sam Houston State after his banishment from Oklahoma? Who was set to profit from the arrival of Michael Dyer from the best college football conference in all the land to Arkansas State? If Tyrann Mathieu had decided to transfer to McNeese State instead of entering a drug rehab, who would have gotten the benefit of that move, the player or the school? Is there really any question?

Meanwhile, the bigger schools are forced into a situation where accepting transfer students come with penalties for the players involved. Players that transfer are forced to sit out a season as red shirt players, which could negatively impact them if they were to have an injury that required a red shirt year. Further, players who ask for their release to transfer could be at risk for losing their scholarship if the player is deemed to have voluntarily left the team…which is what most players do when they ask for a release!

However, none of these penalties comes into play if the player involved wants to transfer from Georgia to Valdosta State; so who are these rules set up to benefit?

I understand the need to have some restrictions on transferring, and I am all for rules that conferences adopt that prohibit intraconference transfers. I understand the need to avoid having rival coaches recruiting players from other schools.

What I don’t understand is why an Alabama, Southern Cal, North Carolina, or Ole Miss should be denied the same right to play transfer students immediately that is enjoyed by Delaware State, McNeese State, or Western Carolina. Nor do I understand the rationale that punishes players for moving on from one D1A school, while rewarding them if they move to D1AA. If the rules are the rules are the rules, why is this one written to reward some divisions while limiting another?

I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised. After all, it’s just one more example of NCAA-approved hypocrisy.