Big Ten’s Proposal To Change Transfer Rules Makes Sense

NCAA transfer rule Justin Fields Ohio State football

A major change could soon be on the way for the NCAA’s rules involving transfers of student-athletes from one school to another.

According to a report from Dennis Dodd, the Big Ten proposed legislation last fall that would allow players in every sport to transfer once without having to sit out a year.

Under current rules, athletes in 20 of the 25 NCAA-sanctioned sports are already able to transfer without penalty. The only sports where they are required to sit out a year are football, men’s and women’s basketball, men’s ice hockey, and baseball.

The NCAA’s current business model is based on pretending that the name, image, and likeness of athletes in sports like football and basketball don’t have meaningful value. That makes it pretty tough to then rationalize why those five sports in particular, which just so happen to be the most popular with a broad audience, should be treated differently than soccer or field hockey.

The existing rules have a carve-out for student-athletes who have already graduated from their current school, and who want to transfer to attend graduate school at another institution.

Those who haven’t yet graduated are supposed to take an “academic year-in-residence” at their new school. That concept was born in 1951, and based on the charming, but now-antiquated notion that student-athletes would need a full 12 months to adapt to life after their transfer. The idea was to allow them to just focus on academics, and possibly finding the best place to get a malt with their best girl, without the burden of athletics to get in the way.

Nearly 70 years later, in reality it serves as a cudgel to punish those players who leave their initial school by either pushing back their opportunity to turn pro by a year, or costing them a year of eligibility.

There are exceptions to that “year-in-residence” rule, of course. A number of high-profile players including Justin Fields (Georgia to Ohio State), Shea Patterson (Ole Miss to Michigan), and Tate Martell (Ohio State to Miami) were granted waivers in recent years due to some sort of extenuating circumstances.

Fields and Martell were part of the first wave of players to have access to a new Transfer Portal, which first opened in October 2018. For the first time, it gave athletes the chance to publicly put themselves on the market, and ended the old system where coaches had the ability to “block” players from transferring to certain schools.

More than half of all players who transfer under the current system are given such waivers. But others who seemingly had reasonable cases like James Hudson (Michigan to Cincinnati) are not.

This proposal would change that, granting every player one “get out of jail free” card if their initial school turned out to not be a good fit.

Maybe they’re homesick. Or the coaching staff they signed up to play for got fired the next season and replaced by one implementing an entirely different system. Or they have a sick relative back home. Or they simply found a better fit elsewhere.

Coaches jump for better opportunities in the middle of an existing contract all the time, often negotiating down their contracted buyout amount or getting their new school to help pay for it. They don’t have to sit out a year.

Why shouldn’t players have the same opportunity?

The biggest impact of the proposed change could come in how players are treated. Every year there are reports of players being physically or emotionally-abused by coaches. There are undoubtedly far more cases that go on in the shadows and never see the light of day. This would provide every athlete with the opportunity to remove themselves from that type of situation without facing additional punishment for doing so.

As a result, it should also disincentivize those bad actors in the coaching community, who would then run the risk of losing a big chunk of their roster every year.

College sports are wildly different than they were even 40 years ago. Back in 1980, the NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament brought in $8.86 million in revenue from TV. This year, they’ll bring in $827 million. That’s a 93-fold increase over the span of four decades. The “year-in-residence” rule goes back almost 30 years before that.

It’s a relic of a long-gone era in college sports. The NCAA is happy to keep cashing those March Madness checks because it knows just how much the game has changed since over the years.

Now it’s time for the NCAA to follow the Big Ten’s lead and change the transfer rule to reflect the realities of the modern game.

24 Responses

  1. In PROFESSIONAL LIFE people ARE free to change jobs as often as they like. Which is the same reason why it doesn’t matter (even though I don’t like it) that coaches change jobs like the x-lax kid changes underwear. THEY ARE PROFESSIONALS IN THE WORKPLACE..

    I never said kids shouldn’t ever transfer. I said that if they make that decision to transfer they should sit out a year EXCEPT under hardship conditions. GRAD transfers are entirely different condition. They HAVE fulfilled their CHOSEN obligations to the University. Degree in hand.

    Obviously College football is big business. SO? Kids already receive a stipend, and the school is getting to reward use of the likenesses and “fame”, which is right up to a limit. That STILL has nothing to do with transferring.

    Free agency in the collegiate ranks babysits the disgruntled and the whiners. PERIOD, while at the same time rewarding bad behavior and disloyalty. Transfer? Sit a year. If that breaks little Johnie’s heart…….tough. Sit the first year.

    1. James- it’s frustrating, isn’t it? You may as well be trying to nail Jello to a tree rather than convince folks about the inherent flaws of the “professionalization” of the college football experience. A lot of these people are the same ones who whined for wi-fi in the stadium because they “need” it and it is “progress”- we wouldn’t want to be tied down to actually watching the game, right?- and who make excuses for all the horrid alternate uniforms we are forced to see without tearing out our corneas. These same folks assume I have to be a curmudgeon for making these points, when in fact I’m just trying to preserve something that was excellent in the first place. They are going to get their way, and, ultimately, they will find out how this nonsense ruined their favorite sport. For all of you who will be outraged by this “backward” statement, please accept my sincerest apologies for allowing accuracy and rationality to disturb your willingness to acquiesce to every stupid idea that is in vogue. I’ll just assume you are appalled and can’t imagine what must have happened for me not to agree with you. Please continue to follow the path of least resistance- it’s your speed!

    2. It is interesting how both you and Longtime continue to ignore the issue I have brought up several times because it does not fit your anti-player worldview that “spoiled” players need to be taught a lesson and that the “boss is always right.”.

      Most transfers in college football – OSU included – come from the COACHES encouraging the player to leave. They tell the kind that he will never play and would be better off going elsewhere. Ryan Day does it. Urban did. Every big-time coach does.

      Is that “loyalty” James? Should the kid have to sit out a year because he in effect got kicked off his current team? Why is it right for a program to oversign? As of this moment OSU has 87 scholarship players and two will have to go. They signed this many with the intention of FORCING others to leave. You can bet there are going to be some painful conversations in the future at the Woody where a few guys are going to be told something pretty tough. It already happened with Alex Williams last month.

      No coach can run their program with a focus on “life lessons” and keeping guys because they are good, solid kids who try hard. (walkons excluded) They may do some of that on the side, but nothing will stand in the way of WINNING – even if that means kicking to the curb a player who has done nothing but try his best every day.

      Explain to me how that fits with your philosophy?

      1. Titus- on my end anyway, you are missing the most vital points. Point 1- YOUR way is going to win! D1 college ball- at least the teams we typically concern ourselves with- will soon be indistinguishable from pro football. Congrats on the “win”… Point 2- this doesn’t mean good will come of it. In a typical game, maybe half the roster sits the entire time. Should those 50 players ALL start eyeing the exits because, you know, their desires are all that count? For every team? I’m not playing so I’m gone? Of course not. The mathematics is simple, and it’s simple to every player who signs the scholarship on the dotted line. 4 QBs can’t play a lot. Period. 12 DBs can’t play a lot. Period. (and so on…) The players KNOW it, Titus! Point 3- the guys who bail out in your model will go somewhere else and, guess what, displace a kid on another team. It never ends under your model…
        Final point. The coaches know more than we do about the status of their players. Ryan Day isn’t sending out goons to threaten 2 guys on scholarship to make them leave. He knows a couple guys will medical out or are going to transfer, etc. I’m having trouble accepting, especially in this day and age when any person who is even remotely upset turns to social media, that some godfather is making the 3rd string TE “an offer he can’t refuse”. Capisce? I think we’ve worn this topic to the bone. There are people who don’t want to see their sport erode and others who don’t consider it erosion (even while it crumbles right in front of them…)

  2. Lets consider the case of Jeff Hafley.

    Since 2001, he has coached for NINE teams college and pro. In most cases, he moved on to the next good gig, but did get fired on occasion. He is a coach – NFL or NCAA is all the same to him. These are pro gigs.

    He came to OSU, with a verbal understanding that he would stay for at least two years. Guess what? A better job came along – head coach at Boston College (you can debate how much better that really is.) He was gone in less than 12 months.

    What about all the promises he made to athletes he was recruiting? What about the relationships with player and families forged on the recruiting trail? What about the loyalty to OSU and to Day? Didn’t matter.

    There is no way any organization can function logically when the management (coaches) play by those rules but then expecting the workers/players to have a different set of expectations. You would not put up with it in your life and we should not expect players to do so either.

  3. James Mills is full of it….

    This is America, where the #1 rule is to look out for #1 — yourself. That is what the coaches, administrators, professors and everyone else does and the fact that someone is a “student” or “student-athlete” doesn’t change that one bit. The institution does not “own” you at all regardless of how much they have “invested” in you just as my employer does not own me even if they have given me training etc – I can quit tomorrow. And guess what James – today, most people change jobs every few years. Its not 1955 anymore.

    The biggest source of transfers? When the coaches tell the kid to get lost because he will never play – how is that honoring the “commitment” that you claim is so precious. Ohio State has already driven off several football players for just such a reason with at least 2 more to come to get to 85 scholarships. College sports is a business – a big one – and every single person in the process is just looking out for themselves. We are now just going to let the players do what everyone else does. Good.

  4. The problem with the “feel good” notion of freebie transfers is that it reeks of professional sports-type movement. (And yes, I’m tiredly aware that so many people claim big time athletics may as well be professional- but it is NOT…) Anyone else out there use to watch NFL but now find it unwatchable garbage? One of the reasons is lack of stability among playing rosters- they switch teams like they change underwear. Even NFL fans are jaded and can scarcely name more than a half dozen players on “their” team. It sounds like I’m standing against the tidal wave and that the “free movement” transfers will happen anyway- but that doesn’t make me wrong. The fun of supporting a team is slipping away, ladies and gents….

    1. Big time college athletics is not professional? Get real. Last game I went to OSU charged me $175 per ticket plus Ticketmaster fees and $8 for a beer in the Shoe to watch the $4 million head coach and is $1 million assistants lead the team. No complaints – that is what the market and demand dictate. In fact, it is often cheaper to go to a pro game.

      I think the bigger issue here is that folks of a certain generation have outdated notions of “loyalty.” You can be the most loyal worker in the world – guess what, the comapny will can you in a minute if things go sour. Only a sucker would approach their career with that notion today – it will get you crushed. Today, you have to look out for yourself, constantly refresh your skills, and be ready to move jobs or city if your current situation goes bad or to take the next step. That’s just reality.

      1. Titus the Third- thanks for proving my point for me. Yes, college football (and it is just ONE college sport) is taking on the characteristics of professional sport; however, it is NOT professional. Lots of people (like me, of a “certain” generation) don’t like watching this slide because we know where it leads. My “outdated notion” of loyalty has compelled me to attend a bare minimum of 60 OSU games at multiple stadiums, including 17 OSU/UM games, from the late 70s as a kid until recently- and I never miss a TV game.
        Next, your comparison of 19 year old college guys to corporate workers is flawed. Guys who signed to play at OSU already ARE looking out for themselves and “refreshing their skills”- which aren’t developed yet. Some also appear to be moving not when something “goes bad”, but merely because they don’t immediately get what they want or fear the competition you claim to know so much about. Finally, your comment about “that’s just reality” is the equivalent of a punt- you just cave in and claim that’s the way of world, when it’s merely intellectually lazy. Is that real enough for you? Maybe a little bit of old fashioned is called for in this case, yes?

        1. I guess I don’t understand what gives you the right to declare that some reasons for moving are OK but others are not – “don’t immediately get what they want or fear the competition.”

          And legally, there is no difference between a 19-year-old and a “corporate worker.” They are both adults. They can both join the military or go work anywhere that will have them – there are lots of teens playing pro tennis, pro basketball and many other sports around the world.

          You seem to have the idea that players transfer because they “can’t handle the competition.” Instead, it is the coaches that drive them off in most cases. Just this week, Alex Williams transferred to Vanderbilt – and good for him, that’s a great school. He was never going to play for Ohio State and the coaches needed him to move on because they are over the 85 limit.

          How does that fit with your notions of loyalty? Or maybe Joe Burrow should have just stayed as an OSU backup and well….just gotten a nice insurance job after college..

          1. Titus- sounds like you should forgo college athletics and just watch the wonks in the pros to me. For starters, even at places like OSU and Bama, the huge majority of players won’t sniff a pro contract. They won’t have agents who negotiate commercial or apparel deals, won’t be able to bounce from pillar to post like hired guns, etc. Second, I never declared that some reasons for moving are okay- YOU did that, hoss. Third, we (or at least I) am not here to parse words over imaginary differences between 19 year olds and corporate workers. They aren’t remotely the same and it’s foolish even to suggest it- take the garbage somewhere else. Finally, I knew you’d bring up Joe Burrow- naturally, he is your obvious exception! Except he isn’t because Burrow GRADUATED before he left. (Jeesh, swing and miss there…) I’ll leave it at this- some people seem hell bent on making collegiate football and pro football the same. Be careful what you wish for, Titus- the NFL is hot garbage and is home to a select percentage of collegiate players. No amount of team switching/waivers/etc can change that.

            1. Long- I’m a modest NFL fan but the idea that it is a “hot mess” is just false. TV ratings were up this year…the teams are worth billions and the country’s biggest singe game takes place tomorrow.

              As for Burrow per your reasoning it should not matter if graduated or not. He could not beat out Haskins and he left. That makes him a hired gun right? Doesnt he owe OSU repayment for all the coaching that helped him thrive at LS U? Or is it the case that schools/pro teams should have all the power and players should just do as they are told?

              1. Titus- we will have to agree to disagree on NFL quality, which in the end is a side topic anyway. Suffice it to say I won’t be watching tomorrow, I’d rather watch paint dry…
                Regarding Joe Burrow, my point was that he graduated and thus was an already existing exception/relative anomaly in this transfer melodrama. In other words, he’s a bad example… And no, Burrow “owes” OSU nothing. He paid by staying with the team and earning a degree ahead of schedule. It is funny you mentioned LSU, though… their presence in the FBI wiretapping case (largely basketball related, which is even further down the road to ruin than football) looms large and we’d be naïve to think the football program wasn’t involved as well…
                Here’s the bottom line. All the folks raising a ruckus over college player rights are going to get what they asked for. Sooner rather than later, the sport we grew up loving for specific reasons, will be a memory. When that happens you can chime in and tell me you were “right” and I was “wrong”- all while wishing it could go back to the way it was before. These guys are NOT pros, period and paragraph.

  5. Exactly no one put a gun to these kids heads and forced them to any given institution. Honor your commitment or pay the price of sitting out a year and stop crying because you’re not good enough to compete. This applies to all “scholarship” athletes. The only exceptions should be hardship situations. But transferring because you over valued your talent shouldn’t be rewarded….and that should apply across ALL scholarship sport offerings. Once the institution begins investing time and finances to develop you after you having made the CHOICE to attend or participate that’s breaking institutional trust and exposing serious character flaws.

    How much money has the institution invested in your hypothetical cellist? I would hesitate applying that to “intramural” sports. Extramural sports should be universal with the same applications, and any transfer except for the above mentioned hardship scenario should be met with a 1 year quieting period.

    Nobody says they CAN’T transfer and play elsewhere. They simply should have to sit for a year.

    Real exceptions? Grad transfers. Athletics at Ohio State are independent of the University, so the scholarship, but the commitment is to the school. A coaching staff in all scholarship sports invests huge amounts of time and money to bring you in. Honor them, and your word.

  6. I get it relative to the student situations described in the article. What wasn’t addressed was the worst case scenario. Remember the forming of the super team with Lebron, Wade and Bosh – 3 free agents teaming up to play together because they wanted to. Rules allowed it and they did it because they were free agents and could. Now, any college football team player who has not previously transferred would be a free agent each and every year. Imagine if Chase Young, Okudah and Dobbins all decided to transfer after their sophomore seasons to TTUN. Would we be cool with that rule then? Who knows what booster recruiting might create knowing it’s not about HS seniors anymore but rather about almost any college football team player. Likelihood of my scenario happening is ridiculous of course but bottom line is that free agency will be in play and we’re unhappy enough with the transfer portal as it is. It’s not as simple as it sounds.

  7. I’m curious, Tom. This is all well-and-good but I think it’s also the B1G trying to get some goodwill ahead of the real fight ahead – athletes being able to profit off of their image? Call me cynical but this should have been addressed decades ago by your own writing above. It just reeks of, “I don’t like what I see ahead so here! Aren’t I SWELL for righting an old wrong I’m much more comfortable with parting with?”

  8. Good for the Big10. Congratulations. So proud to see the conference that issued my 2 degrees show respect for an individual’s right to chose. This is why I love OSU.

    Do I personally like the transfer portal. Hell no. I want all our guys to stay. But there are bigger factors involved.

    Every student must have equal rights. No exceptions. Nearly 40 years ago, if I wanted to switch universities and pursue my studies elsewhere away from OSU, no one could stop me. Even way back then. Sure, I had scholarships. I couldn’t attend without support. We were not wealthy. I’d lose the support if I transferred. I’d have to re-qualify for financial support at a new institution. Nonetheless, I had the option to transfer. I had the choice on my own with no fear of penalty.

    Those were my rights a long, long time ago. What’s different about today’s student athletes? Nothing. Except this.

    You, me, most fans, the universities- we see the athletes as commodities. They come to “our” school to help “our” team. Bullshit. They’re like everyone else, just trying to make it in life. So much stands in their way, in everyone’s way. Well, I won’t. I support them.

    They should have equal rights. No other way.

    Congratulations Big10 on the right decision.

  9. I’m not sure I like the can of worms this would open up.

    1. More than 50 percent of transfers (roughly 65 from one source I read) already gets granted a waiver. This just evens the playing field for the other 35.

      Is there some reason a baseball or basketball or football player should be treated differently in this regard than a volleyball or field hockey player?

  10. Coaches jumping from one institution to another is a matter of PROFESSIONAL employment. The SA’s, regardless of what mythical nonsense people want to purport, are strictly amateur athletes……..STUDENTS. There is a MASSIVE difference between coaches moving on and athletes who want to leave because they can’t get it done on the field. The first reason ANY student, or SA should enter an institution is and should be academics.

    That is a TOTALLY different issue than players profiting from their images. Totally different. If you’re a graduate……..fine transfer. If you have yet to graduate and want to transfer EXCEPT for hardship situations……tough crap, either stay or be prepared to sit out a year. Coddling kids is no way to develop their character.

    1. Okay, so why should those five sports in particular have different sets of rules for transfers than the other 20? Why should those other 20 sports get “coddled” by having the same freedom of movement as any other college student would? If a talented cellist wants to change schools, do they have to sit out a year from the orchestra at their new school?

  11. The ncaa’s motto; if it was good enough for your dad’s dad, then it’s good enough for today’s athlete. One size fits all.

  12. Its all a result of THE ever changing world we live in. Seems natural to me.

    Go Bucks!

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