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DI Committee on Academics considers transfer rule changes

Members favor academic benchmark for immediate competition after transfer

The Division I Committee on Academics will recommend to the Transfer Working Group that four-year transfer student-athletes who meet specific grade-point average and progress-toward-degree requirements be able to compete immediately at the second school.

The academic data reviewed by the committee indicated that, on average, sitting out a year of competition following a transfer may not be academically necessary for student-athletes with a strong scholastic foundation.  As a result, the committee will recommend benchmarks that align with successful academic progress after transfer.

Committee members agreed those benchmarks should include a GPA between 3.0 and 3.3 and a requirement that students be academically eligible for competition at the time of transfer, based on their progress toward earning a degree within five years of initial enrollment.

The group considered adjusting those requirements to put transfer students who want to compete immediately on a track to graduate in four years. But it ultimately opted to keep the rule the same for transfers and nontransfers. Current academic progress rules keep students on a track to graduate in five years.

Data show that, regardless of their sport, transfers with GPAs below 3.0 are most at risk for taking longer to graduate — or not graduating at all.

Nicole Sherwin, a committee member who represents the national Division I Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, reminded the committee that just because a student-athlete will be eligible to transfer and play immediately doesn’t mean he or she will do so.

“The process of transferring is tough, and this isn’t indicative of how many will transfer,” said Sherwin, who competed in soccer at Northern Arizona while earning degrees in biomedical science and psychology. “Doesn’t mean all these students will leave schools. It’s just how many could. Give those students the opportunity.”

Members also considered setting different academic standards depending on whether the student was transferring after their freshman, sophomore, junior or senior year. The conversation was confined to undergraduate transfers. Ultimately, the group agreed on a single GPA benchmark for all student-athletes that predicts a high likelihood of graduation after transfer.

Committee members also considered endorsing a potential rule that would require all student-athletes to sit out a year of competition after transferring. But it agreed that data does not support requiring academically high-achieving student-athletes to sit out.

“This issue is very complex, and we want to give input to the working group that is both meaningful and useful,” said committee chair John J. DeGioia, president of Georgetown. “We recognize the working group will examine this in a more detailed and nuanced way. From our perspective, an academic benchmark should be set at a level that will help support the student’s path to graduation.”

Members favored a phased effective date in which both the current one-time transfer exception and an academic-based transfer exception exist in the rulebook at the same time. In that scenario, the academic exception would become effective for the 2019-20 academic year; the current rule would then be eliminated after the 2020-21 academic year.  That approach would make the academic-based transfer exception available to all student-athletes while gradually phasing out the current one-time transfer exception, which many student-athletes currently use.

The committee valued that approach because it provides notice both to student-athletes who can currently utilize the one-time transfer exception that it will be eliminated, and to coaches that the rules are changing. It also would give academically successful student-athletes in sports that don’t have a one-time transfer exception the opportunity to transfer and compete immediately as early as 2019. The committee’s recommendation will go to the Transfer Working Group for consideration.

The committee also began conversations about potential changes to the Academic Progress Rate. The discussed change would hold schools that accept transfer students accountable for their academic success without changing the rate so much that the current benchmarks lose their meaning. Those conversations will continue at future meetings and will be informed by data.

Accelerating Academic Success Program

The committee examined outcomes from the first two classes of the Accelerating Academic Success Program, a tiered-grant program intended to provide funding for academic initiatives at limited-resource schools. The program also includes a student-athlete career development award and an annual conference for all schools eligible to apply for funding.

In aggregate, the program has been successful, with APRs increasing at most schools that received funding.

Qualitative data also showed increased success referred to as the “AASP ripple effect.” Student-athletes exposed to summer school and leadership training for the first time because of the grants reported higher levels of self-confidence. The cross-campus collaboration required for many of the grant initiatives contributed to a more positive campus culture. Coaches found recruiting easier because parents could see the academic resources that were devoted to student-athletes.

The national office staff tasked with overseeing the AASP program will continue to review the grant recipients’ initiatives and report back periodically to the Committee on Academics.

Academic misconduct

The group also reviewed the recently changed academic misconduct rules and discussed how different scenarios on campus may be decided when applying the new rules. The group will continue with similar exercises to identify potential areas where the current rules could be fine-tuned or clarified.