Conferences will get on board with new transfer rules. Why? They have no choice


Look out, folks. This stuff is going to come at us pretty fast.

On Monday the ACC announced that it will support a Big Ten proposal that would allow every college athlete a one-time transfer without sitting out the obligatory year before becoming eligible.

More simply put: Under this proposal an undergraduate athlete can transfer once with no questions asked. Any transfers after that would require an athlete to sit out a year before becoming eligible to play.

“During the league’s annual winter meetings (Feb. 12-14) the ACC discussed the transfer environment and unanimously concluded that as a matter of principle we support a one-time transfer opportunity for all student athletes regardless of sport,” the ACC said in a statement. “As a conference we look forward to continuing the discussion nationally.”

On Tuesday the NCAA’s Division I Transfer Working Group, whose job it is to study such things, revealed they were looking at a plan to do exactly that.

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

SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey said his conference will be providing feedback to the NCAA Transfer Working Group.

“I have repeatedly stated my view of the need for an educationally sound, fair and consistent approach to transfer policies and we will work to evaluate the range of possibilities in advance of the Division I Council’s April meeting,” Sankey said in a statement released later on Tuesday.

Here’s what’s going to happen. Everybody is going to give their feedback and this proposal will become the law of the (NCAA) land, maybe as early as January 2021.

Do you know why?

First of all, it’s the right thing to do.

Secondly, the conferences really have no choice. This train is leaving the station with or without them.

Think about it. What have been the dominant story lines about college sports over the past few weeks?

**--NCAA President Mark Emmert goes before a Congressional committee and gets grilled over the state of spending in at the elite level of college athletics.

**--Emmert tells Congress the NCAA may need their help in the matter because, to put it bluntly, the NCAA can’t control its members when it comes to spending (nor should it). The NCAA is racing against the clock trying to come up with something before Congress and the states intervene. Hence, Tuesday’s announcement.

**--The poster child for this system, fairly or unfairly, has become new Michigan State head coach Mel Tucker, who recently had his salary doubled from $2.7 million to $5.4 million to leave Colorado (and a brand new recruiting class) and come to East Lansing.

We can debate until the cows come home about the system and its fairness and whether or not the Feds can make a law that restricts how much an employee can make.

But the larger point is that in this atmosphere the schools simply cannot pass on the opportunity to give the players a little more freedom of movement.

It’s really a no brainer. If you’re not going to make the players employees (and the schools are not) or find a way to give them more cash (and they won’t), you can give at least give them more freedom:

**-- The freedom to go into the market place and determine the value of their name, their image or their likeness.

**--The freedom to transfer without restriction if a school no longer feels like the right fit. I heard my friend Barrett Sallee of make this analogy on the radio: What if the school you’re attending drops the program in which you’re majoring? Your academic life and opportunity have changed.

Well, a student-athlete can argue when coaches like Michigan State’s Mark Dantonio and Colorado’s Mel Tucker leave in February, the college experience they signed up for has changed.

With the elite head football coaches making $9 million per year and coordinators are making over $2 million a year, the atmosphere is hardly conducive to denying the players the freedom that other students have. As they say in politics, the optics are not good.

Two other reasons this is going to happen. It simplifies a transfer process that has been inconsistent at best and patently unfair at worst for players who can’t afford to “lawyer up” to challenge the transfer rules.

Only five NCAA sports—football, men’s and women’s basketball, ice hockey, and baseball—have the current transfer restrictions. Athletes in other sports can transfer without penalty.

I can hear the counter arguments against giving athletes—especially in football and men’s basketball--this kind of freedom. Yes, it will impact how coaches manage their rosters. And yes, a player may leave your school and then play against your team the following year. And yes, your team might actually lose a game because of a transfer.

But you know what? It’s a new day. The coaches will adjust. And so will the fans.


Tony Barnhart