NCAA’s likely approval of one ‘free’ transfer brings much uncertainty

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Justin Fields at UGA
After Justin Fields left Georgia for Ohio State, he was granted immediate eligibility by the NCAA.

If you track the NCAA, big changes are a’ comin’ soon.

Now we know an additional season of eligibility has been granted to student-athletes in all spring sports after the COVID-19 virus cut short 2020 seasons.

Next on the docket – true free agency.

A vote was scheduled to take place in April, but now will be pushed back to June. What’s at stake? The proposed one-time transfer rule would declare immediate eligibility to those Division I student-athletes seeking greener pastures for whatever reason.

The three crucial benchmarks will be discussed:

  1. The student-athlete must receive a release from the previous school.
  2. He/she must be academically eligible.
  3. He/she cannot leave their current school on disciplinary suspension.

The coaching fraternity holds opinions on both sides of the fence. For example, Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh is one who favors the rule which would allow immediate eligibility while Nick Saban, Gus Malzahn and Sonny Dykes are dead set against it.

Regardless, it’s out of their hands and likely to pass. If the rule is adopted, it would go into effect for the 2020-’21 academic year.

Previously, if a student-athlete were seeking a new home, they would be required to sit out one season unless they transferred from an FBS school to an FCS institution. There have been exceptions, particularly in recent years.

On October 15, 2018, the grad transfer rule was adopted, allowing those who graduated from one school with eligibility remaining to be immediately eligible at another.

Then early on in 2019, Justin Fields transferred from Georgia to Ohio State as a sophomore while Tate Martel did the same from Ohio State to Miami. Both cited extenuating circumstances in their appeals and were granted immediate eligibility. Neither were grad transfer candidates. That’s when the rumblings started that changes were coming.

Unlimited and immediate eligibility would be a slippery slope for head coaches, with no limits as to how many of your players can jump ship at one time. That could be the new way, like it or not.

A coaching staff will have a tough time trying to decipher how they are going to stay competitive when late June or July if there happens to be a mass exodus due to transfers. Programs will recruit a player, develop him only for that player to leave for another school as he is maturing. A lot of time and expense will be wasted.

Don’t be surprised if the gap between the have’s and have not’s grows even wider in college football and basketball. Let’s just hope that the June meeting involves lots of dialogue and total discussion from all parties.

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Rene Nadeau

Rene Nadeau


Born and raised in the New Orleans area, Rene Nadeau has been involved in sports ever since his earliest memories. Rene played basketball, wrestled, ran track, and was an All-District running back in football at John F. Kennedy High School. He went on to be a member of the LSU football program, developing a passion for the game in even…

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