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The NCAA just got rid of a rule that lets schools prevent players from transferring

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The new rule doesn’t do everything, but it’s a significant step forward.

NCAA Basketball: Final Four-NCAA President Press Conference Robert Deutsch-USA TODAY Sports

The NCAA is doing away with a rule that required college athletes seeking transfers to get permission from their previous schools before getting recruited by other teams. It repeals a national rule that, in effect, let colleges prevent players from transferring.

How the NCAA explains the new rule, taking effect Oct. 15:

The Division I Council adopted a proposal this week that creates a new “notification-of-transfer” model. This new system allows a student to inform his or her current school of a desire to transfer, then requires that school to enter the student’s name into a national transfer database within two business days. Once the student-athlete’s name is in the database, other coaches are free to contact that individual.

Athletic departments couldn’t prevent players from transferring altogether, but they could prevent them from getting scholarships elsewhere. So this rule worked out as a de-facto ban on transferring without the blessing of the school a player was leaving.

The guy in the photo at the top of this article is NCAA president Mark Emmert. He’s the guy at the head of the NCAA’s national office, but the people who voted on this change were athletic administrative types who populate the DI Council. That’s the NCAA’s main legislative body, which took advice from a smaller Transfer Working Group.

This rule change only goes so far.

The NCAA previously forced players to get permission from their old schools before others could contact them. It won’t do that anymore, but conferences still can. At least a few of them, including the SEC, have their own permission-to-contact rules, and the NCAA is clear: “Conferences, however, still can make rules that are more restrictive than the national rule.”

But it’s still a pretty big advancement for players.

There are countless stories of unpaid college athletes who have wanted to play at other schools and had roadblock after roadblock put in their way. Kansas State football coach Bill Snyder once blocked a player from going to any of 35 schools, then relented only after public backlash.

The best tool at transferring players’ disposals until now has been public opinion — that schools would look so bad if they blocked them, maybe they’d just lighten up. Now the NCAA rulebook is with them, too, even if some conferences’ aren’t.

More transfer rule changes may or may not be coming.

The most commonly discussed: a move away from the requirement that most transfers sit out a season before being eligible to play at their new school. There’s been some talk about letting players who meet a GPA benchmark skirt that year of sitting out, but it’s not clear if the NCAA will move ahead on it.