NCAA considering changing transfer rules to allow student-athletes to be eligible immediately


DePaulia File Photo

Brandon Cyrus left DePaul after the 2017-2018 season to go to UC Santa Barbara.

The discourse in college sports this past academic year was dominated early around paying student-athletes due to bills passed by state legislators around the country. In 2020, words from various conferences like the B1G and ACC have sparked a further discussion over changes to the transfer portal. More specifically, letting players have one free open transfer without needing to fill out a waiver to avoid sitting out a year.

Like any NCAA change, the one-time transfer rule has been polarizing among coaches. The idea would give players more autonomy when it comes to switching programs, but opposition is critical of the potential for bigger programs to poach players who develop at smaller mid-major schools.

Ryan Gilroy | The DePaulia
Senior guard Jalen Coleman-Lands came to DePaul from Illinois in 2017.

Patrick Ewing of Georgetown basketball equated it to the “wild, wild west.” Michigan football Head Coach Jim Harbaugh shared his support in July through a tweet, saying, “My belief is that a one-time transfer should be allowed for all student-athletes.”

The proposition has been fast-tracked by the NCAA as the Transfer Waiver Working Group is considering the idea of a first-time transfer rule that could be passed in April.

Currently, all sports besides basketball, football, men’s ice hockey and baseball have this rule in place if the athlete considering transferring fits the following criteria according to the NCAA website: The player receives a transfer release from their previous school, is academically eligible at their previous school, keeps up their academic progress at the new school while leaving under no disciplinary suspension.

Alexa Sandler | The DePaulia
Junior Charlie Moore transferred to DePaul from Kansas last April.

The new proposition would take away the subjective process that has come under fire for its unpredictability and odd, erratic implementation. DePaul has gone through its share of transfers in the past five years. Jalen Coleman-Lands and Darious Hall have both sat a year as Blue Demons after transferring from Illinois and Arkansas respectively. Charlie Moore, on the other hand, received a hardship waiver to immediately become eligible this year.

Big East coaches sounded off on the topic at this past week’s media teleconference. Ewing equated it to the wild, wild, west and wasn’t ready to sign on to the madness. “That is all I can say right now, I got to have some more time to think and reflect on it,” he said. “But right now, I would say I don’t like it.”

Butler coach LaVall Jordan has had his fair share of impact transfers. Recently, guard Jordan Tucker transferred from Duke to make an instant impact on the team. “In terms of the rule changes I think as a sport we’re always trying to progress and there’s a ton of rules and the transfer thing is such a component of programs that you are relying on to plug gaps and fill holes,” Jordan said. “When we’ve been really good here at Butler we’ve had impact transfers. So obviously, those guys being able to impact sooner rather than later [is important], there’s always that question from an ethical standpoint on what’s best for the game and I think we are trying to figure that out now.”

Richard Bodee | The DePaulia
Forward Femi Olujobi transferred to DePaul from NC State last season.

Blue Demons Head Coach Dave Leitao sees the potential in the possible transfer rule that would put men’s and women’s basketball on the same level as other sports’ ability to pull players from wherever.

“My feelings are probably not as relevant, but you can go on either side of it and understand that what’s happened now with grad transfers has been able to help some programs and I think more and more as years go by, coaches, whether they want to or not, are specifically investigating the ability to get a transfer and have them help your team immediately,” Leitao said.

Leitao also saw the limitations of being able to pull players from teams with ease, as well as the coach’s ability to persuade athletes to jump ship. To Leitao, there is merit in working through the problems and adversity.

“This will add to that on a positive note because you have more options, but you also will have to put a little bit of a challenge to the process because coaches are really smart and they will find ways to find guys that are maybe not in the best situation at that moment,” Leitao said. “And as opposed to working through that and getting better and seeing the fruits of your labor will move on to another situation because the grass appears to be greener on the other side when it may actually not be.”

Caroline Stacey | The DePaulia
Former DePaul forward Levi Cook left the program after the 2016-17 season.

Besides players like Hall, Coleman-Lands and Moore who have added to DePaul through the transfer process, other players during Leitao’s tenure have utilized the transfer portal to find other schools.

Jutin Roberts, Brandon Cyrus, Levi Cook, John Diener and a few more have come to the program and left. A total of 18 players have either transferred in or transferred out in the past five years.

The question of whether or not players should have that free transfer is still up for debate. Like any NCAA rule, it affects different programs and people in many ways. As the NCAA moves to create this new rule, the landscape of football, basketball and baseball will look a whole lot different.