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Leadership Council considers transfer change, delays final decision

The DI Leadership Council will consider a change to the waiver process and could make a decision this spring

By Michelle Brutlag Hosick

While the Division I Leadership Council supported a change to the waiver process for transfer student-athletes, the group decided to wait on making a formal recommendation to the Board of Directors to allow time for the membership to vet the idea. The council will take up the issue in April with the intention of making a final recommendation to the board this spring.

The group considered a recommendation from a subcommittee that would have allowed some undergraduate student-athletes who transfer schools to gain an extra year to complete their eligibility. Because it was not sent to the Board for approval, members support an extended timeline that will not make the change effective until the 2015-16 academic year.

The subcommittee recommended that student-athletes who do not have the ability to transfer and play immediately without a waiver be allowed a sixth year to complete their four years of eligibility.  The change would primarily impact those who play baseball, basketball, bowl subdivision football and men’s ice hockey as well as those in other sports who already availed themselves of the one-time transfer exception. Student-athletes would still need to present some form of mitigation, such as a serious family illness, to be eligible for the extension.

America East Conference Commissioner Amy Huchthausen chaired the subcommittee that began examining transfer issues a year ago. Huchthausen acknowledged that subcommittee’s recommendation was fairly narrow, given the wide scope of challenges with transfer student-athletes.

“While these are important and may be viewed as a big change, that is likely due to the high-profile nature of the issue as opposed to actual substantive changes,” Huchthausen said. “Due to the timing of our request to have the Board take action this week, I understand why council members decided to delay because they felt the membership did not have sufficient time to examine the recommendation.”

The subcommittee had recommended that undergraduate student-athletes who fit the specific criteria no longer be issued waivers to play immediately, a change that would not require legislative action.

 The full council decided that while they supported the concept, the membership needed more time to vet the issue.

The subcommittee made its recommendation in part to reduce concerns about abuse of the waiver process and the perception that it is inconsistent. Some subcommittee members also noted that student-athletes who transfer due to an ill family member, for example, might be better served spending time with that family member rather than traveling and competing. Other members noted that people cope with personal hardship in different ways, and the distraction of competition might assist some student-athletes.

 The council members decided not to take action on the same concept for graduate student-athletes, preferring instead to allow the new governance structure to handle a fuller discussion of the issue.