Taking a Look at NCAA Transfer Rules

NCAA transfer rulesDealing with the NCAA transfer rules

For student-athletes, changing schools in accordance to NCAA transfer rules is no simple task.

Some might describe these NCAA transfer rules as Byzantine in their complexity. It is not as simple as applying for a new school, completing the transfer and slipping into a brand new jersey. There are numerous requirements that factor into student-athletes’ eligibility to play for a new college team. A transfer student cannot step onto the practice or game field until he or she meets the NCAA stringencies that apply to moving to a new school. Some consider these rules unfair, including Devin Pugh, a former Weber State cornerback who, in a class action complaint, stated the organization’s transfer rules are unlawful.

Why the NCAA transfer rules needs to change

To understand why the NCAA is facing a legal challenge to its transfer rules, it may be helpful to learn more about what they are.

Before a student-athlete begins speaking with the coaching staff at the school he or she hopes to attend, the individual must first receive permission from his or her current school. If permission is denied, then the student-athlete should avoid contact with the target school’s athletic department. The person can still switch schools, though – there simply cannot be any contact with athletic officials. This means that the transferring individual would not be eligible for an athletic scholarship until after the transfer is complete and he or she has completed a full academic year.

Exceptions for students who meet qualifications 

If permission is granted, then the transferring student-athlete is eligible for aid immediately. However, he or she still must complete an “academic year-in-residence” before actually joining the team. However, there are a number of exceptions to this rule that allow individuals to begin competing immediately. For example, there is the one-time transfer exception, according to Athnet. Students typically use this exception as a last resort. This is because transferring student-athletes have to meet numerous requirements such as:

  • Not having previously transferred from another four-year institution.
  • The student-athlete must be academically eligible at the school he or she is leaving at the time of the transfer.
  • The school the individual is transferring from must provide written permission for his or her use of the one-time exception transfer.
  • The student cannot play Division I football, men’s or women’s basketball or baseball.

There is also the graduate exception, generally used by students who play one of the sports excluded from the one-time transfer exception. This rule also has requirements including:

  • The graduate student must have received a bachelor’s degree.
  • The individual should have one season of competition left.
  • The student-athlete should meet the one-time transfer exception requirements, other than the one that excludes certain sports.
  • The previous school did not renew or offer an athletic scholarship for the following academic year.

The controversial hardship waiver

Other exceptions exist as well, such as family hardship waivers. It applies to athletes who need to play immediately, since their eligibility to compete is essential in overcoming a family hardship This exception is no stranger to controversy though, due to the inconsistency with which it is granted. However, there are some requirements that apply:

  • The nature of the illness or hardship, and relation to the individual.
  • Student-athlete’s responsibilities in caring for the family member.
  • A timeline of events that could be reasonably seen as leading to the transfer.

Those are just a few of the exceptions, however. The NCAA transfer rules offers a variety of waivers for different situations. Additionally, if a one-time transfer exception request is denied, students must be notified that they have the right to request a hearing to contest the decision. 

This outline of the NCAA transfer rules touches on the surface of the complexities involved. To learn more about transferring from one Division I program to another, or if you’re struggling in your transfer attempt, consult an experienced sports law attorney.

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Anthony R. Caruso is a business transactional attorney in New York and New Jersey with experience in structuring, negotiation and completion of legal deals involving business, entrepreneurs, athletes and performers.

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