Immediate Eligibility for Transfers Will Radically Alter Sports

Bruce Hooley

College basketball is already a vagabond endeavor littered with anonymity thanks to the preponderance of one-and-done players, and there's going to be even less stability if the NCAA liberalizes its transfer rules.

A proposal to allow players in sports requiring transfers to sit out a year before becoming eligible is on the table and likely headed for approval, given it has the backing of the Big Ten, ACC and now the Transfer Working Group of the NCAA Division I Council.

Once enacted, players who meet four easily-attainable criteria could transfer once in their careers and gain immediate eligibility. That essentially means free agency in college football and basketball as long as the player:

  • Receives an official transfer release from their school,
  • Leaves their previous school academically eligible.
  • Maintains the same academic progress at their new school,
  • Does not leave their current school under disciplinary suspension.

The potential for roster upheaval and intra-conferrence bickering is enormous, as is the social media pressure from fans to entice players from a rival school to their school when it is perceived to be a player away from contending for a championship.

Players can't be blamed if they view the open window as an escape hatch to find a team that better fits their skill set, better positions them for a professional career or allows them to follow a coach who leaves for a job elsewhere.

Of course, players buried behind a star player can leave at first chance, something quarterback recruits are already doing routinely as evidenced by three of the four Heisman finalists this past season behind quarterbacks who started their careers elsewhere.

“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,” said working group chair Jon Steinbrecher, commissioner of the Mid-American Conference. “This concept provides a uniform approach that is understandable, predictable and objective. Most importantly, it benefits students.”

That it does, but the impact will be mind-bending for coaches, who will have to re-recruit their rosters every year without the impediment of a season lost to playing eligibility for first-time transfers.

"I think (the year's inactivity) benefits a guy who transfers and has to sit out," OSU basketball coach Chris Holtmann said. ""He can get himself academically ready to go. It does benefit benefit maybe a young man who is reluctant to do that and then ends up pushing through and fighting through it and ends up finishing with a great experience.

"There's been plenty of those stories that maybe don't get talked about. I just think the reality is that this is where it's headed. I don't know that there's anything any of us can do to resist it and I see value in the one-time transfer exeception. I do."

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