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Sports Authority

Berry: NCAA transfer rules need to be reevaluated

| Thursday, February 8, 2018

As the old saying goes, common sense isn’t too common nowadays — especially when it comes to the NCAA and how it treats its amateur athletes. While the issue of compensation for college athletes is frequently discussed, less attention is often given to a an equally controversial topic — NCAA transfer rules.

More than 400,000 student athletes compete in 24 sports for the NCAA, with many hoping that they will beat the odds and one day become a professional athletes in their chosen sport. But what happens when that plan is placed in jeopardy because of a coaching change, a family illness or a range of issues life can throw at you? What then? What options are available?

Transferring may seem like the most logical option, but the NCAA doesn’t make that option desirable even if it’s a necessary decision.

The current NCAA bylaws require athletes that transfer to sit out a full year after transferring. The initial aim of the transfer rules was to primarily protect coaches from having their athletes poached under the disguise of an “academic year in residence” that gives athletes a year to get adjusted academically.

Sure, there are multiple athletes that transfer for athletically motivated reasons, and the current rules discourage that behavior, but there are plenty of athletes that don’t fall into that category. Why punish them?

The NCAA needs to seriously consider transfer reform in the best interest of its student athletes, especially considering the freedom on movement non-athlete students and coaches enjoy currently.

Lucky for the NCAA they won’t have to start from scratch because the Big 12 has already proposed amendments to the current transfer policy.

The Big 12 Proposal would amend some current conditions to the transfer rules and abolish some conditions altogether. Transfer rules regarding graduate transfers would remain the same and graduates would be eligible immediately, but schools would no longer be able to block a player, graduate or undergraduate, from transferring to any school. Also, identical to the current rule, the proposal calls for undergraduate transfers to sit out a year unless one of three conditions are met: 1. If a coach leaves or is fired, 2. NCAA sanctions are levied against a program and 3. If the player is a walk on without a written offer.

Condition one makes the most sense in the current coaching market where coaches are leaving and uprooting program without penalty in favor of bigger contracts or sporting market. In 2017 alone, the FBS experienced over 20 coaching changes from Power 5 schools such as Florida State, Oregon, Nebraska and Texas A&M. When coaches leave systems offensive and defensive systems and personnel can change to unfavorable situations for athletes, so if necessary transferring would be a viable and hassle-free option.

The second condition concerns programs that  have sanctions levied against them by the NCAA. When the NCAA cuts scholarships or imposed post-season bans, the effects on student athletes can be lasting and extend beyond simply winning a national or conference championships. Also, sanctions usually punish members of a current program for the sins of previous teams or administrations. There isn’t any justice in  punishing current members without giving them a chance to leave.

The final condition stipulates that walk-ons without a written offer can transfer immediately.

Although a rarity, this new rule would’ve been beneficial for reigning Heisman winner Baker Mayfield when he was at Texas Tech before his transfer to the Oklahoma.

While the new proposal doesn’t specifically account for every special transfer, it’s a start.

Each condition seeks to add some control and protection to the student athletes over their academic and athletic careers, while still maintaining the integrity of the original rule. In an effort to challenge the public perception that the college system is tilted in the favor of the coaches, it would behoove the NCAA to seriously consider reforms to the current transfer policies.

In the end, the transfer reform would be a win-win for both the NCAA and the athletes involved because the NCAA is likely receive fewer transfer appeals, which allows them to save time and resources from conducting appeal hearings, while student athletes would be allowed regain control when it comes to transferring.

The Big 12 proposal for transfer reform will add a rare dose of common sense that the NCAA has been lacking for years.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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