Last year, the problems with the NCAA’s transfer rules were revealed to the public by way of a few high-profile cases:
- Todd O’Brien, a basketball player was denied a final year of eligibility after St. Joseph’s refused to provide him with a waiver to compete at UAB despite the fact that he had graduated from St. Joseph’s;
- Brock Berglund was forced to hire an attorney to secure his release from Kansas, despite the fact that new coach Charlie Weis kicked him off of the football team; and
- Maryland quarterback Danny O’Brien was denied a release to transfer, despite the fact that he had graduated from Maryland.
There were countless other examples, most taking place outside of the public eye.
The need for change is clear. Accordingly, I’ve tried to put together a reasonable proposal that addresses the shortcomings with the current state of NCAA transfer rules. In developing this proposal, I considered the following core values:
- Academics and the completion of one’s course of study are of primary importance.
- A student-athlete should not be obligated to a school any longer than the school is obligated to provide an athletic scholarship to the student-athlete.
- A student-athlete has a limited college athletic career and should be permitted to pursue opportunities at other schools free of determinations from self-interested parties.
- A student-athlete should have the same right as a coach to change schools. As Warren Zola wrote in an article entitled, “I’m Begging you for Mercy”, as follows: “…The NCAA rules, written by schools claiming to protect the best interests of student-athletes, allow coaches to move about at will but, student-athletes need permission to do so.”
No student-athlete should be required to obtain a waiver to transfer to a new school unless that student-athlete was awarded a four-year scholarship. If the school has only committed to the student-athlete for one year, his or her commitment should be limited to one year. For athletes with four-year scholarships, they should be automatically granted a release if their coach leaves the school. In addition, any denial of a waiver request by a school should be in writing, with a full explanation of the reasons for the denial.
Year in Residence
Under current NCAA rules, a student-athlete typically must spend a “year in residence” (sit out one year) after transferring, with some limited exceptions. These exceptions (such as the one-time transfer exception) should remain, but an academic exception should be instituted. Any student-athlete with a GPA of 3.0 or higher should be able to play immediately at the new school. After all, shouldn’t academic performance be rewarded?
Once a student-athlete graduates, his or her commitment to a school ends and no waiver should be required to compete at another school. The current exception has worked notably for Wisconsin quarterbacks (see Russell Wilson and Danny O’Brien). However, Danny O’Brien had to fight Maryland for his release and Todd O’Brien never received his, despite appealing to the NCAA. Simply stated, the completion of a student-athlete’s course of study completes his or her athletic obligation to the school. Considering the short careers of student-athletes, administrators and coaches should not have the ability to arbitrarily prevent student-athletes from taking advantage of other opportunities. Again, academic performance should be rewarded.
This is a working proposal and doesn’t cover all aspects of the NCAA’s transfer rules. If you have ideas for changes, please leave a comment or drop me an email.