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The NCAA just made it a lot riskier for players to seek transfers

It’s part of a package of transfer reforms that includes some really good stuff. What will this part mean?

NCAA President Mark Emmert News Conference
Mark Emmert, the NCAA president.
Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images

Earlier in June, the NCAA did two objectively good things for its athletes:

  1. It got rid of a national rule that effectively required players to get permission from their current schools in order to transfer. Many conferences still have that rule.
  2. It said Division I football players could play up to four games without burning a redshirt year.

Yeah, everything’s relative and all, but that right there’s a hot streak

The NCAA just did something else that might be OK, but it’s different.

In what the NCAA termed an “expected next step,” the Power 5 conferences voted Tuesday to make transferring a bigger risk for athletes who want to leave their current schools.

As part of No. 1 on that two-item list above, players no longer have to get “permission to contact” other schools about potential transfer opportunities. Instead, players have to give their current schools notice of their “intent” to transfer. All of that differs from officially transferring and enrolling at another school. Almost all the time, when news breaks that a player is transferring, he hasn’t formally done it yet.

Going along with that, the power leagues have made it so that if a player tells his school of his intent to transfer, the school can cut off his scholarship, effective at the end of the term.

“Schools can cancel the aid of a student-athlete as soon as he or she provides written notification of transfer, but the aid may not be reduced or canceled until the end of the term,” the NCAA explains in its announcement of the move. “Schools can re-award the scholarship at the end of the term, subject to other financial aid rules.”

The Power 5 (get to vote on their on rule changes on certain issues, and the mid-major leagues often follow suit. Sixty-five teams are part of the “autonomy conferences,” which are part of the NCAA’s governance structure. But it’s schools who make these calls.

Why do this?

Here’s the explanation from the chairman of the NCAA’s Student Athlete Advisory Committee, former Missouri-Kansas City basketball player Noah Knight:

“In fairness to the transfer student-athlete’s teammates, coaching staff and overall team dynamic, the Division I SAAC felt that a student-athlete should not be able to give notification, search for other opportunities, then return to their institution if dissatisfied with their options with no repercussions.”

On its face, nothing about that seems that unreasonable here.

If a player says he’s on the way out (or at least shopping for a way out), it should be OK for schools to plan for the future by freeing up a scholarship to use elsewhere.

That a scholarship automatically continues through the end of the term is appropriate. Players shouldn’t get yanked out of class.

CBS Sports’ Dennis Dodd points out how this might look in football:

This rule will affect different players differently. If a former five-star recruit wants to browse other schools, his current program probably won’t nix his scholarship. If a middling three-star who’s been fighting for a spot on the two-deep does, maybe the school will.

All in all, this isn’t college sports’ biggest deal.

But it’s unusual, because unlike most things the NCAA does, it’s hard to tell right away if it’s a good or bad idea.

On the one hand: Players know what they’re getting into when they try to transfer, and schools should have a right to look forward.

On the other hand: College students make mistakes sometimes, and it’s maybe not the best to put them at risk of losing scholarship money if they make a mistake like this one.