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DI Transfer Waiver Working Group to seek feedback on waiver expansion

Potential change could make student-athletes eligible after first transfer, regardless of sport

Division I student-athletes in all sports could transfer and compete immediately if a concept under consideration by the Transfer Waiver Working Group is adopted by the Division I Council.

“The current system is unsustainable. Working group members believe it’s time to bring our transfer rules more in line with today’s college landscape,” said working group chair Jon Steinbrecher, commissioner of the Mid-American Conference. “This concept provides a uniform approach that is understandable, predictable and objective. Most importantly, it benefits students.”

The working group concept would change waiver criteria to allow approvals for first-time four-year transfers in all sports to compete immediately if they:

  • Receive a transfer release from their previous school.
  • Leave their previous school academically eligible.
  • Maintain their academic progress at the new school.
  • Leave under no disciplinary suspension.

The waiver criteria are the same as the legislated exception already allowed for student-athletes who compete in any sport other than baseball, basketball, football or men’s ice hockey.

“More than a third of all college students transfer at least once, and the Division I rule prohibiting immediate competition for students who play five sports hasn’t discouraged them from transferring,” Steinbrecher said. “This dynamic has strained the waiver process, which was designed to handle extenuating and extraordinary circumstances.”

When the Division I Board of Directors placed a moratorium on transfer legislation last fall and asked the Council to appoint the working group, it acknowledged the stress on the waiver process caused by a rule that makes a waiver the only means to immediate competition for some transferring college athletes in Division I.

“We know that challenges will exist with this concept, particularly as it relates to other coaches potentially tampering with currently enrolled student-athletes,” Steinbrecher said. “The working group will continue to examine this, as well as any potential financial aid and academic impacts, so the Council can make a fully informed decision.”

Waiver criteria changes do not follow the regular legislative cycle but still must be approved by the full Division I Council. Steinbrecher also serves as vice chair of the Council.

The group agrees that a waiver process will remain in place for student-athletes who have transferred previously or otherwise do not qualify for the one-time waiver guidelines. Group members think this waiver process should be limited to truly extenuating and unique circumstances that threaten a student-athlete’s health and safety (for example, if the student-athlete is a victim of physical/sexual assault) while recognizing the impact multiple transfers have on the likelihood that a student-athlete graduates.

The working group will seek feedback from Division I members through student-athlete representatives, conference offices, impacted coaches associations and other collegiate athletic professional organizations prior to the Council’s April meeting. The group’s goal is to have the new criteria approved for transfers in the 2020-21 academic year.