The NCAA Board of Directors has recommended tabling the adoption of a one-time transfer rule for all sports, including football, for at least the academic year, calling the proposal “not appropriate at this time.”
A one-time waiver that grants immediate eligibility has been long considered by the NCAA for the five sports that have been under the year-in-residence rule requiring transferring athletes to sit a year — football, men’s and women’s basketball, baseball and hockey. This announcement comes as the NCAA Division I council could still vote May 20 in favor of the one-time transfer and allow athletes in the transfer portal to be immediately eligible for the 2020-2021 season.
The NCAA Board cited the COVID-19 pandemic has a reasoning behind putting changes to the transfer waiver police on hold.
“The board agreed to lift the moratorium on transfer legislation for the 2020-21 legislative cycle but recommended to the Council that changes to the waiver process as suggested by the working group are not appropriate at this time,” according to an NCAA statement released Thursday.
“Board members recommended the waiver process be sensitive to student-athlete well-being, especially those impacted by COVID-19 in the interim period.”
This comes a day after the NCAA Board of Governors voted to allow student-athletes to profit off their names, images and likenesses.
Earlier this year, the NCAA announced a Division I Transfer Working Group had been established to consider allowing all student-athletes a one-time transfer without penalty. The Big Ten had officially proposed that all athletes should be allowed to transfer one time.
“The idea is that everybody can transfer one time,” Michigan athletic director Warde Manuel told The Detroit News at the time of the Big Ten's proposal. “The second time you transfer, there is no waiver. Everybody sits. There should be no waiver process. This gives everybody a chance to transfer once.”
In an interview last Friday on WTKA-AM 1050, he was asked what he would say to people who think a one-time transfer might signal the downfall of college athletics.
“It won’t,” Harbaugh said.
Harbaugh said he and Manuel are like-minded on the subject and believes this would be a positive for all student-athletes.
“It’s actually a good thing for college sports,” Harbaugh said. “For those that think it’s not, I would say that there’s a waiver, there’s an actual waiver in for being run off the team. A run-off waiver is what it’s called exactly. If a school runs a guy off, then he’s immediately eligible at the next school and doesn’t have to sit out, but there’s also rules in college football and all college athletics that you can’t reduce a scholarship based on talent. Those two things are flying directly in the face of each other.
“In my opinion, that’s saying two different things, so for all reasons, just really in fairness, just like any other student and most other student-athletes, a one-time waiver is a positive thing.”
Harbaugh’s opinion evolved, in part, after having a front-row seat for former Michigan quarterback Shea Patterson’s grueling road to immediate eligibility after he transferred from Ole Miss in December 2017. Patterson’s family hired lawyer Tom Mars, who became the go-to for transferring athletes challenging the NCAA transfer rules, and the five-month process that successfully won Patterson immediate eligibility sparked a new era in college athletics and calls for rules reform.
“Really, all throughout the spring, I’d just be taking those reps, and I had the mindset, regardless if I was going to play I was going to work my ass off,” Patterson told The News a year ago on the one-year anniversary of receiving eligibility. He discussed the long wait to see if he would be granted the waiver.
“But there were some times you felt devastated. The first two months were really tough on me.”
Mars is a strong advocate for the rights of student-athletes and has said he believes the NCAA should — and will — allow a one-time transfer without penalty. The NCAA had been hit-or-miss on declaring some football players immediately eligible and others not.
Last summer tight end Luke Ford, who transferred from Georgia to Illinois so his ailing grandfather could watch him play in person, was not granted immediate eligibility. Virginia Tech offensive lineman Brock Hoffman transferred from Coastal Carolina to Virginia Tech so he could be closer to his mother, who had a noncancerous tumor removed before his freshman season. The issue for the NCAA, reportedly, was that he asked for the transfer two years after her diagnosis. His immediately eligibility was denied.
“My confidence has waned to the point where I have more confidence predicting the outcome of my next bet on a slot machine,” Marstold The News last fall. “Whenever it becomes that difficult to predict an outcome in any rules-based system, the whole world becomes a grey area.
"And when that happens, every decision can be seen by observers as arbitrary capricious. That’s what’s happened here, and this can’t be allowed to continue.”