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Working group seeks input on transfer concepts

Permission to contact, ethical recruiting ideas up for debate

Transfer rates remain steady

One of the key guideposts for the Division I Council Transfer Working Group  is to make data-driven decisions. Updated transfer information demonstrate overall undergraduate transfer rates have remained steady for the last five years. About 12 percent of all Division I student-athletes in 2015-16 were transfer students from either two- or four-year schools.

The data also showed, for the first time, female student-athletes are transferring from a four-year school to another four-year school at a slightly higher rate than male student-athletes. Men’s basketball and football transfer behavior continues to remain steady or decline, while women’s basketball and women’s tennis are increasing.

As expected, the number of graduate transfers increased in the five years since the adoption of the rule allowing students to transfer and play immediately after graduation. In that time, their prevalence in men’s sports tripled while the women’s numbers doubled.  Graduate transfers are most prevalent in men’s basketball (1.9 percent of current players are graduate transfers), women’s basketball, track and field and football. However, the overall graduate transfer population remains less than one-half of 1 percent of the total student-athlete population in Division I.

The Division I Council Transfer Working Group will ask the membership for feedback on several potential concepts designed to create the best outcomes for both student-athletes and schools involved in the transfer process.

The group set its plan during its June 25-26 meeting in Indianapolis.

The working group focused on concepts in these general areas:

  • Permission to contact, including the tie with a college athlete’s athletics scholarship.
  • Postgraduate eligibility.
  • Ethical recruiting.
  • Uniformity of rules/academic impact of transfer.

Based on the working group’s discussion, members appear to have reached some consensus on areas regarding permission to contact and the connection to a college athlete’s scholarship, graduate transfer and ethical recruiting. Working group chair Justin Sell, athletics director at South Dakota State, believes legislation could be introduced in those areas as early as this fall.

“I am thrilled with the great progress made this week, and I’m confident we can move forward with some initial concepts for consideration in this year’s legislative cycle,” Sell said. “We are working toward academics-based, data-driven decisions that benefit student-athletes, teams and schools.”

Sell said the group has centered much of its work on supporting a student’s academic success, and that the working group would continue to carefully consider academic ties in the transfer process.

Permission to contact/athletics aid

One of the ideas posed is to modify permission to contact rules. 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 after transferring.

Group members believe financial aid should not be tied to whether a school grants permission to contact. They want to know if others in the membership feel the same way. The group also agreed that enhancements should be made to the formal process students use to notify a school of their desire to transfer. The group will seek input from the membership on appropriate enhancements.

The working group also believes that, by the time student-athletes arrive on campus, they should be better educated about NCAA, conference and campus rules and potential implications related to transferring.

Finally, the working group supported the ongoing review of conference regulations related to transfers, believing it will be important to prevent any national policy related to the transfer environment from being undercut through conference regulations.

Postgraduate eligibility

Another area of general agreement concerned the eligibility of students after graduation. The working group generally agreed that immediate eligibility for students competing after graduation is appropriate now, but the group expressed interest in identifying additional methods for holding the schools where  students may transfer accountable for the student’s academic progress.  One potential approach could be to require that the financial aid provided to graduate students count against a team’s scholarship limit for two years, regardless of whether the graduate student stays for two years or leaves when their eligibility is complete.

Another concept for increasing that accountability is through the Academic Progress Rate calculation, specifically the eligibility and retention points for which a student would be held accountable as they pursue a graduate degree. The Committee on Academics discussed the calculation and the working group plans to continue conversations on the topic.

The working group members also believe that the process for acceptance and admission to a graduate school should be similar for student-athletes and other aspiring graduate students, and that the institution should commit to providing financial aid until the student-athlete completes their graduate studies after exhausting their eligibility.

Ethical recruiting

The working group expressed concern regarding unethical behaviors related to coaches recruiting student-athletes currently playing at other four-year schools.

The group expressed interest in increasing the consequences for coaches who break recruiting rules to seek out undergraduate and potential graduate students. The working group will ask the Committee on Infractions and enforcement staff to review the concept and provide feedback.

The group also is placing a priority on developing additional education for coaches, spearheaded by coaches associations, on rules in the transfer space.

Process

Depending on membership feedback, the group would like to introduce legislative proposals into this year’s cycle, with a vote scheduled for April 2018.   However, to create the best possible legislation, the group would like extra time to vet proposals with the membership by requesting an extended deadline for submission. The Division I Council agreed to ask the Division I Board of Directors to extend the deadline to Nov. 1. The normal deadline for proposals is Sept. 1.

Uniformity of rules/academic impact of transfer

Establishing uniform transfer rules — which would require everyone to follow the same rules regardless of the sport they play — was a topic that the group agrees will likely take longer to resolve. While most members agreed the concept of uniformity would be positive, what the specific rules would be is less clear.

Members discussed two models: One model would require every transfer student to sit out a year to acclimate to a new school; the other would allow all transfers to play immediately provided they present academic credentials that predict graduation at the new institution.

In addition to membership feedback, the group also will seek data to guide its decision, asking the NCAA’s research staff to provide information about the academic impact of a year in residence, potential academic benchmarks that a student could meet to play immediately and whether there are academic differences by sport.

As part of the meeting, the group reviewed membership feedback that indicated the group’s principles — including a commitment to view the issue through an academic lens — were on track.