All Division I student-athletes will have a one-time opportunity to transfer and compete immediately beginning in the 2021-22 academic year, if legislation adopted by the Division I Council is ratified by the Division I Board of Directors. The board meets April 28.
The Council met via videoconference today and Wednesday.
The Council expanded the one-time transfer exception to all sports, which means student-athletes who play baseball, football, men’s and women’s basketball, and men’s ice hockey have the same chance as all other student-athletes to transfer and play right away. If ratified by the board, the change is effective for student-athletes who have not transferred before and want to compete at a new school as early as this fall.
Council member Caroline Lee, the Division I Student-Athlete Advisory Committee vice chair, said the student-athletes she represents are “ecstatic” with the rule change.
“SAAC feels honored to be a part of this major decision and landmark legislation,” said Lee, who played soccer and earned a degree in biology pre-medicine at Southeastern Louisiana. “The ability to compete immediately offers the utmost flexibility and support of the student-athletes we serve and is a positive step toward improving their overall experience and future success.”
“Allowing student-athletes a one-time opportunity to transfer and compete immediately provides a uniform, equitable and understandable approach that benefits all student-athletes,” said Council vice chair Jon Steinbrecher, who chairs the Working Group on Transfers and is commissioner of the Mid-American Conference. “The decision is consistent with Division I’s goal of modernizing its rules to prioritize student-athlete opportunity and choice.”
Members also adopted deadlines for student-athletes to provide written notification of transfer if they want to compete immediately. The deadlines will be May 1 for fall and winter sport student-athletes and July 1 for spring sport student-athletes, but the Council also granted a blanket waiver for this year only that sets the date for all student-athletes as July 1. Members noted the May 1 deadline was just a month away, and the waiver would provide students additional time they might need to decide.
The dates were selected based on a desire to balance providing flexibility for student-athletes to make informed transfer decisions with protecting the interests of students who don’t transfer but will be impacted by those who do.
Some exceptions to the deadlines would apply in cases of a head coaching change or canceled athletics scholarship before July 1.
Transferring college athletes also must meet progress-toward-degree requirements and be otherwise academically eligible to compete immediately after transfer, and both the head coach at the new school and the student-athlete must certify that no tampering took place. Schools cannot object to schools to which a student-athlete wants to transfer. The waiver process will continue to be available for students who do not meet the criteria of the one-time transfer exception or who wish to transfer more than once.
Student-athletes will have access to education regarding the impacts and implications of transferring, including academic requirements and financial aid policies. An online module will be created to assist schools with ensuring student-athletes can access this education, which is intended to help student-athletes make informed decisions before entering the NCAA Transfer Portal.
Division I has been working on modernizing its transfer rules for some time. Several working groups have made some notable progress, including the 2018 change that eliminated the requirement that student-athletes get permission from their current school to speak with other schools. That change also created the Transfer Portal.
In December, the Council continued its trend toward providing maximum flexibility for student-athletes during the pandemic and granted a waiver that allowed all students who had transferred and were sitting out their year in residence the ability to compete this season. That waiver applied only to student-athletes who had transferred by the start of fall 2020.