It is expected that significant headway will be made toward instituting one-time transfer legislation during NCAA Council meetings scheduled for this week, multiple sources told CBS Sports. The long-awaited, landmark statute would allow athletes who qualify to transfer once during their five-year eligibility window without having to sit out a year in residence.
“I would expect action on that [this week],” a source close to the NCAA Council said.
The expectation is that athletes in fall sports will have until July 1 to notify their schools they are transferring to take advantage of new rule. It is expected that college football and basketball athletes who have already transferred this academic year — as well as those currently in the transfer portal — would be immediately eligible in the 2021-22 academic year.
The year-in-residence restriction has existed in some form for at least a portion of sports sponsored by the NCAA since 1964. Athletes in only five of the 24 sports sponsored by the NCAA – the so-called “revenue sports” of football, men’s and women’s basketball, baseball and hockey — currently have to sit out a year in residence when transferring.
The measure would then have to be approved by the NCAA Board of Directors at its April 28 meeting to become official legislation.
A special NCAA Council meeting was called on April 1 to iron out details.
However, discussion and debate on the issue is expected, and the Board of Directors could intervene. In November 2019, the board imposed a moratorium on transfer legislation for the 2019-20 academic year.
Shortly before that date, the Big Ten quietly proposed one-time transfer legislation. That created recent momentum to consider dropping the rule that had been around for parts of seven decades.
To qualify, athletes have to be in good academic standing and not have faced disciplinary issues. A league’s intraconference rules will still supersede any NCAA legislation, but those walls appear to be coming down, too. The ACC, for example, recently did away with intraconference transfer restrictions, while the Pac-12 seems to be headed that way.
While the legislation has long been expected to be in place for the 2021-22 season, its passage was delayed in December when the U.S. Department of Justice sent a letter to NCAA president Mark Emmert expressing strong concerns.
As of last week, a meeting between the NCAA and the Justice Department’s antitrust division still had not taken place. However, transfer legislation had been forwarded to the NCAA Council from the transfer working group.
The NCAA Council is a 40-person body responsible for day-to-day NCAA legislative and policy decision-making. It has a representative from each of the 32 Division I conferences. Voting is weighted toward the 10 FBS conferences, and within that, the Power Five (ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, Pac-12, SEC).
If the FBS conferences vote as a group, they control 56.3% of the voting points. However, the Power Five cannot decide the issue on its own. Those conferences control only 37.5% of the total vote.
The NCAA Council will meet this Wednesday and Thursday. During that time, it is expected to end the recruiting dead period in all sports that has existed since COVID-19 shut down the NCAA Tournament in March 2020.
“The only reason why [one-time transfer legislation] hasn’t passed is this meeting with the Department of Justice,” said an administrative source close to the situation. “Whatever formal sit down they felt like they need to have didn’t happen as of last week.”
If there is a delay, that same source said, a waiver would have to be passed to temporarily institute one-time transfers.
Coaches have been recruiting for months — if not years — with the expectation that one-time transfers would be in place for 2021-22. Pressure had been mounting on the NCAA for increased player freedom during that time. NCAA athletes were bound by those transfer strictures that didn’t impact normal students.
“We all knew it was coming down the track,” Maryland coach Mike Locksley said. “Kids should be allowed to transfer one time whenever or wherever they choose to go.”
A series of recent high-profile challenges to the year-in-residence rule highlighted the unfairness of the current situation. At times, the NCAA also showed little consistency in ruling on transfer waivers filed by athletes.