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Rule proposal would allow more freedom for student-athlete transfers

We might get some changes. Maybe. It might happen. Possibly not. We don’t know.

Ohio State v California
LB Khairi Fortt (11) transferred to Cal following sanctions at Penn State

A proposal is coming out of the Big 12 that—if passed—would give a little more freedom to student-athletes seeking transfer.

Currently, there are a number of restrictions in place if a student-athlete—particularly of a money sport like football or basketball—seeks to transfer. For starters, the originating program must grant permission for contact between the student and other schools, occasionally resulting in blocks from transfers within conference or to upcoming nonconference opponents. If permission is granted and a transfer takes place, then there are even more rules about eligibility. Transfers from one FBS program to another result in a mandatory redshirt year at the new program (e.g., Vic Wharton III playing in 2014 at Tennessee, sitting out at Cal in 2015, then finally playing at Cal starting in 2016). Given all these hoops that players must jump through, the stark contrast between coaches being able to jump ship whenever they see fit has been thoroughly criticized.

The proposal would allow for five situations in which student-athletes could transfer without the mandatory redshirt, with one in particular addressing the disparity between the rights of the players and the rights of the coaches.

1. the student-athlete earned a baccalaureate degree at the original institution;

2. the student-athlete’s head coach at the original institution resigned or was fired during or after the most recent season of competition, except that the student-athlete is not immediately eligible at another institution at which the head coach is employed;

3. sanctions have been imposed on the original institution that limit post-season competition in the student-athlete’s sport;

4. the student-athlete did not receive athletically-related financial aid at the original institution; or

5. an exception in bylaw or 14.5.6 is satisfied.

The first situation is the grad-transfer rule, which we’ve seen demonstrated in several graduating Cal players and with the arrival of Davis Webb. The third is how Khairi Fortt found his way to Berkeley after the massive sanctions at Penn State. Valentino Daltoso transferred to Cal from Oregon with the fourth scenario. The fifth... is something I have no idea about and didn’t research.

But the interesting aspect of the proposal is scenario 2. This would allow student-athletes to transfer if their original head coach leaves (although the player is not allowed to bypass the redshirt year if the transfer is to follow the coach). This proposal would open up the possibility for players to transfer during the Tedford–Dykes or Dykes–Wilcox transitions without the penalty of losing a year. Charlie Moore would be playing for Kansas right now and who knows how many Sun Devils would have abandoned the U.S.S Herm Edwards?

And this isn’t a total pipe dream, as CBS Sports uses some weird language to state the change is coming: “The NCAA board of directors has basically mandated Division I to change its transfer rules in the next year.”

Personally, I’d have no problem with this new allowance. Fans and even some players throw around the phrase “commit to the school and not the coach”, but I don’t think it’s that straightforward. For the student-athletes who have a real chance of being a contributor or starter (not to mention those with legit NFL aspirations), the athletics program isn’t just some hobby or a club. This is a large part of their college experience—and thus, their decision-making process. I see the decision more like choosing a grad school. You don’t pick just based on the name of the school or the program because you won’t be just another face in a sea of students. You’re interacting with the faculty directly, so these relationships become so much more important. Picking a college is a life-changing decision and every factor should be considered, from the school itself to the staff who will be training you.

But this is still just a proposal. It might go nowhere and mayhaps this will be the last any of us hears about this.