What should the NCAA do about its transfer rules?

Feb 14, 2018
Staff Writer
A picture of a giant bracket projected on a hotel in Indianapolis during a recent NCAA tournament. (Getty Images)

NCAA transfer rules are going to change. 

Exactly how and how much is still being determined. 

That was announced this week by the Division I Transfer Working Group, which met Monday and Tuesday in Indianapolis and now is seeking feedback on the types of changes that could be implemented. 

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Two things are certain: The graduate-transfer rule is not going away, and some restrictions will remain in place. 

The group also identified two potential changes (via press release): 

— Allow students who meet specific, high-achieving academic benchmarks to play immediately after the first time they transfer during their college experience.

— Allow prospective student-athletes who have signed a National Letter of Intent to transfer and play immediately if a head coach leaves the school of the student’s choice, as well as under other exceptions already in the rulebook.

With the popularity of college sports in southwest Ohio, this obviously has the potential to be a hot-button issue. 

Dayton and Wright State men’s basketball both have “traditional” transfers playing important roles this season — Josh Cunningham for the Flyers and Cole Gentry for the Raiders.

So do both women’s teams. Fairmont grad Chelsea Welch leads the Raiders in scoring for the second straight season after transferring from Pitt, and Alex Harris is a starter for UD after starting her career at Penn State. 

All had to sit out a season after arriving on campus.

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WSU also lost a graduate transfer last summer when Mark Alstork opted to play his final season of eligibility at Illinois. 

Another Dayton native, Jaaron Simmons of Alter High School, is at Michigan this season after graduating from Ohio University, where he was a star for two years. 

(Both of them also transferred earlier in their careers, for what it’s worth.) 

Ohio State’s resurgence? A key reserve for the Buckeyes is Andrew Dakich, a graduate transfer from Michigan. 

Transfers are also of course a big deal in college football, where the frequency of players transferring out has increased at Ohio State as Urban Meyer has elevated the recruiting from top 10 to top two over the past six years. 

I happen to think some constraint on transfers should remain in place. 

The NCAA says transfers tend to have worse academic outcomes (obviously this is not the case for those who have already graduated before moving to a new school)), and too much player movement could hurt fan interest. 

Players should be allowed to do what is necessary to improve their situations. However, some incentive to encourage them to work it out where they are probably isn’t a bad thing. 

Obviously player welfare is the No. 1 priority, but fan interest is important because that’s the main source of all that expanding revenue that makes college athletics possible. 

Additionally, I’ve heard countless stories of players who were unhappy and wanted to transfer early in their careers before ultimately becoming success stories at their original school. That’s only natural given the stakes and the emotional time in students’ lives. Often cooler heads prevail, though not always of course. 

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Allowing immediate eligibility for players who want to transfer after their coach leaves or is fired (whether they are recruits or in school) is a no-brainer. 

Perhaps that could also bring some sanity to the coaching market, encouraging colleges to be more patient with coaches who aren’t immediate hits. More coaching stability would also be good for student-athletes who are happy where they are until the administrator screws it up by firing the coach. 

I’m not so sure about one-time Academic Transfer Get Out of Jail Free Card. 

Maintaining good grades is sort of an understood part of being eligible, right? And the graduate transfer exception already rewards players who take care of business in the classroom before their eligibility is up, so I’m not sure the situation is really screaming out for this change. 

It might just be a public relations bone to throw to those who prefer more radical changes than are apparently going to be considered. 

At any rate, it will be interesting to see what changes actually come about, especially since there are already concerns graduate transfers are hurting leagues like the Atlantic 10, Horizon and MAC by stripping them of some players who were recruited and developed at their schools only to strengthen the big boys. 

Making it easier for players to move up the ladder probably wouldn’t help, and that could be bad for the overall health of college athletics.