NCAA Working Group Proposes Waiver Change for Immediate D1 Transfer Eligibility

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistFebruary 18, 2020

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - JULY 23: The entrance to the NCAA's headquarters is seen following an announcement of sanctions against Penn State University's football program on July 23, 2012 in Indianapolis, Indiana. The sanctions are a result of a report that the university concealed allegations of child sexual abuse made against former defensive coordinator Jerry Sandusky, who was found guilty on 45 of 48 counts related to sexual abuse of boys over a 15-year period. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images)
Joe Robbins/Getty Images

A working group for the NCAA proposed a change to the Division I transfer policy that would open the door for student-athletes to compete immediately for their new schools.

Mid-American Conference Commissioner Jon Steinbrecher, the group's chairman, issued a statement on the plan: "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. This concept provides a uniform approach that is understandable, predictable and objective. Most importantly, it benefits students."

The working group laid out four criteria for an athlete to fall under the policy:

  • Receive a transfer release from their previous school
  • Leave their previous school academically eligible
  • Maintain their academic progress at the new school
  • Leave under no disciplinary suspension

Many fans of college sports have argued athletes deserve to have the freedom of movement of head coaches and athletic administrators—or at least something comparable. 

Steinbrecher cited the fact that "more than a third of all college students transfer at least once" despite the fact that most are required to sit out a full year before they're eligible to play again.

Critics of relaxing the eligibility requirements for transfers often argue it could widen the gulf in major college sports. In football for example, Power Five schools with playoff ambitions would pick off the best players from Group of Five programs.

However, The Athletic's Chris Vannini noted SMU added 16 transfers prior to the 2019 season, and some of those players helped the Mustangs win 10 games for the first time since 1984.

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Schools outside of the traditional power conferences could benefit from an influx of athletes who have struggled to get regular playing time.

The proposed transfer policy could only be triggered once by an athlete. Any subsequent move would require going through the waiver process that is currently in place.

The working group is hopeful of finalizing its plan for the 2020-21 academic year.