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New group working toward uniform transfer rule in Division I

Division I is making strides toward a uniform transfer rule that provides more flexibility for student-athletes, which the Division I Council resolved to adopt by January 2021.

The Division I Council Coordination Committee expanded the Transfer Waiver Working Group, formed last fall to study and recommend changes to the waiver process, to include additional members from the Committee on Academics, the Student-Athlete Advisory Committee and Council standing committees. The group’s charge also expanded, and it will be the main governance body working with Division I schools and conferences to develop a comprehensive package.

Mid-American Conference Commissioner Jon Steinbrecher chaired the Transfer Waiver Working Group and is chairing the latest Working Group on Transfers.

“This is our last best chance for our membership to take care of our business in this area. It’s fascinating. We kind of have a confluence of things occurring right now. We have name, image and likeness coming to the forefront now; we have transfer issues coming to the forefront right now,” Steinbrecher said. “We have an obligation here and an opportunity to recraft our rules in a way that they will be understandable, that they will be viewed as fair and predictable and that they will be seen as transparent.”

Nicholas Clark, a former football student-athlete who holds degrees from Coastal Carolina and Georgia Tech, is one of four student-athletes serving on the latest group. Clark also served on a working group that resulted in the notification of transfer model and the creation of the Transfer Portal, as well as the most recent group that focused on changes to the waiver process.

Clark acknowledged the importance of his and his fellow student-athletes’ service, especially to give voice to the student-athlete viewpoint.

“Some (student-athletes) have been disadvantaged by the transfer rules. I mean, student-athletes transfer for a variety of reasons in every sport, and they are saying we want to be treated like the other sports,” Clark said. “In terms of what we stand for as an Association, we need to be able to be fair and make sure they have opportunities. We need to empower student-athletes to make their own decisions.”

In April, the Division I Board of Directors indicated it preferred a legislative solution to a change to the waiver process.

Currently, Division I rules permit student-athletes in all sports except baseball, men’s and women’s basketball, football and men’s ice hockey to immediately compete after a first transfer. Data show that most student-athletes in all sports transfer for athletics reasons (73% of men and 78% of women), not just those in the five sports that are treated differently.

The newly reconstituted Working Group on Transfers will study issues that impact transfers and work to put forward a uniform concept that achieves this fairness, helps student-athletes be academically successfully at their new institution and ensures other rules adequately account for a more flexible transfer environment.

Steinbrecher acknowledged that a uniform transfer rule that allows all student-athletes to transfer and compete immediately one time might create new factors for student-athletes, coaches and schools to manage, and the working group will prioritize balancing those factors with the advantages of a consistent, fair rule.

“When a student-athlete … decides they want to transfer, they are reinitiating the recruiting process again. That will bring the time demands, obligations and pressures that potentially come with it for the student-athlete,” Steinbrecher said. “At the same time, it also provides some level of mobility that is more consistent with what we see for most student-athletes, as well as for students in general.

The group hopes to present concepts for membership feedback to the Division I Council in August. The Council has until Nov. 1 to introduce legislation for the 2020-21 cycle. Clark is confident that will happen.

“The real question is how can we create a fair system where student-athletes can compete right away and coaches don’t feel slighted,” Clark said. “From the two meetings we’ve had, I think we can figure that out by the end of the summer.”

NCAA Division I Working Group on Transfers Roster