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DI transfer group seeks membership input

Potential changes to transfer rules could improve environment

The Division I Transfer Working Group wants to hear from others in the membership about a comprehensive package of concepts intended to improve the transfer environment for college athletes, coaches and teams in Division I.

The group will survey presidents, athletics administrators, faculty and coaches on a variety of ideas, including eliminating permission-to-contact rules and replacing them with a model that involves a college athlete-initiated notification of intent to transfer, stressing ethical recruiting practices and new rules for postgraduate student-athletes.

“The group has made a lot of progress dealing with some very complex issues,” said working group chair Justin Sell, athletics director at South Dakota State. “Now we look forward to hearing feedback from the membership — athletics administrators, coaches, presidents, faculty and conference commissioners. We need to hear from a variety of perspectives to help us create the best possible legislation to support our student-athletes.”

Permission to contact

The working group is closely considering recommendations from the Division I Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, which met last month and strongly supported eliminating the tie between financial aid and permission to contact. Currently, Division I college athletes who wish to transfer to another school must first receive permission from their current school to talk with other schools about opportunities for transferring. If the school denies permission, the student-athlete can’t receive athletics aid for the first year after transferring.

Both SAAC members and working group members believe financial aid should not be tied to whether a school grants permission to contact. Instead, the group favors a notification model, with coaches meeting with student-athletes at the end of a team’s season to discuss the future. The group also supports the opportunity for students, if they desire, to talk with coaches at other schools about transfer possibilities without the need to seek permission from the current school.  

Under this concept, if a student explores transfer opportunities, which could include visits to other schools, the current school could have the option of not renewing athletics aid.

SAAC members, who also expressed concerns about the impact of a transfer on the teammates left behind, said in July that they supported a more transparent process that doesn’t jeopardize aid for transferring students and allows schools to provide opportunities to other student-athletes in a timely manner to benefit the team.

Financial aid for postgraduate transfers

Additional concepts under consideration include changing academic requirements and financial aid rules for postgraduates. For example, athletics aid could be provided for the duration of a graduate program.

Working group members are considering a model in which the aid would count for the duration of the graduate program (as defined by the school’s catalog) regardless of whether the student remains enrolled or competes.

Ethical recruiting rules

A key element of any transfer package of proposals would be underscoring the importance of ethical recruiting practices. When schools are accused of tampering, or recruiting students from other schools to transfer, those violations are typically processed as Level II (major) violations with significant penalties attached. The group will consider prescribing a rule that tampering violations be processed as Level II (major) violations.

Additionally, the group would like a clear, simple document created to communicate to coaches what is and isn’t allowed  in transfer situations. Working with coaching associations will be a critical component of this effort, the group said.

Referrals

The working group also will refer a few areas of study to the Committee on Academics, which meets next in October. That committee will be asked to review several concepts:

  • An academic transfer standard for all students that would tie one-time immediate eligibility for competition after transfer to a set of academic benchmarks instead of to in what sport the student-athlete competes.
  • How the Academic Progress Rate is calculated for students competing after graduation.
  • Allowing college athletes to participate in internships or experiential learning programs for academic credit after graduation at their original school.

The Division I Presidential Forum and Division I Board of Directors will be asked to review graduate school admissions procedures.

Both the SAAC and the working group are interested in student-athletes attending different schools for graduate school to go through the same admissions process as any other student, with presidential awareness required for any special admits.

Next steps

The survey, which will include these concepts and questions that still need to be answered, will be sent to members in early September, with a response required by Sept. 22.

The working group expects to consider the feedback at its next meeting in October, and will determine the most appropriate timeline for each concept. The members could recommend the Division I Council introduce some proposals in the 2017-18 legislative cycle. The most likely areas for legislative proposals include the ethical recruiting and postgraduate financial aid requirements.

Some of the concepts fall under legislation that can be changed only by the autonomy conferences. The working group, which has representatives from those conferences, will collaborate with that group to follow proper legislative processes.

Earlier this year, the board changed the legislative deadline from Sept. 1 to Nov. 1 for the Division I Council, in part to accommodate the transfer work. If proposals are introduced in this cycle, the Council casts final votes in April 2018. Other concepts, including those referred to other groups, will be on a longer timeline.