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The NCAA is in the process of reforming its rules for athletes who transfer — and the mere suggestion of changes that could make it easier for football and basketball players to leave one school and play immediately for another was enough to stir things up.

“How can you plan a roster or a team when every player is a free agent at the end of the season?” Alabama football coach Nick Saban said last week.

There is much work to be done and any drastic changes to transfer rules across all NCAA sports are likely a few years away at least. But change is coming, and guiding principles already have been established by the university presidents who make up the NCAA board of directors.

One thing is clear: New transfer rules will be rooted in academics, according to a statement released last week by the Division I Council group working on the topic.

Students with better grades could face fewer restrictions if they want to transfer, and schools might end up with less control over where athletes go. Athletes who have graduated could still transfer with immediate eligibility, but the so-called free agent market could be chilled by other steps, such as a different way of counting grad transfers toward a team’s academic performance.

“We put a survey out about a week ago which really was to gain some feedback from every area of the membership that could help us understand the different perspectives,” said South Dakota State athletic director Justin Sell, who is heading the council’s transfer working group.

Transfer rules have been a nagging issue for the NCAA for years. The current rules give coaches the ability to prevent an athlete from receiving an athletic scholarship from another school, essentially blocking a move to a desired school or preventing a transfer all together.

Research shows athletes who transfer are less likely to graduate and more likely to become ineligible, and men’s basketball transfers have reached epidemic levels in the eyes of many coaches. The NCAA said 90 percent of those players indicate they leave for athletics reasons.

“As you look at the transfers world, where everyone starts to panic is the ability to play right away,” Sell said. “But we’re really looking at it from an academic perspective.”

As for graduate transfers, there is concern a rule originally meant to give athletes more options when pursuing graduate degrees has created, as Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby has called them, “hired guns” in college sports.

Friday's Top 25

(At) No. 22 South Florida 47, Illinois 23: A big night passing for Quinton Flowers, three 100-yard rushers and another lopsided victory for No. 22 South Florida.

There was plenty for Charlie Strong to like Friday night, but nothing resonated more than the way Flowers led the Bulls back from a Hurricane Irma-layoff.

The dual threat quarterback threw for 280 yards and four touchdowns, moving ahead of Matt Grothe and B.J. Daniels into second place on USF's career touchdown pass list with 53.

The 2016 American Athletic Conference offensive player of the year also scored his 32nd rushing touchdown, tying Marlon Mack's school record.

"We can still improve," Strong said, "but offensively it was a major step for us. Offensively we hadn't produced like that," in the first two games.

The Bulls (3-0) beat a Big Ten opponent for the first time on a night USF honored first responders who worked the past week to help victims of the massive storm that impacted the entire state of Florida.

Illinois is 2-1.

Central Michigan-Syracuse

Syracuse quarterback Eric Dungey is about to confront a big challenge — ignoring a frightening moment in his college career.

It’s been two years since he took a violent helmet-to-helmet hit in the Carrier Dome that knocked him out of a game against Central Michigan in only his second start for the Orange. The Chippewas (2-0), who lost that game in overtime, return today with the player that delivered the blow — defensive end Mitch Stanitzek.

Stanitzek was ejected for targeting — and Central coach John Bonamego anticipated addressing it before the opening kickoff.

“It’s probably something that we’ll discuss,” Bonamego said. “Mitch, in his heart, knows what he did was not intentional.

“It was just one of those bang-bang plays,” Bonamego said. “He (Stanitzek) had already committed himself to the tackle and Dungey stumbled right before the contact. It was an ugly play to watch happen.”

Court proceedings

A federal appeals court declined a university’s request to stop one of its football players convicted of rape as a teenager from playing today against Central Connecticut State.

U.S. District Judge Benita Pearson on Thursday issued a temporary order allowing Steubenville resident Ma’lik Richmond to play for the next 14 days.

Youngstown State appealed the order Friday morning.

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