In May 2012, I was interviewed by the Associated Press for an article on NCAA transfer rules that was ultimately published by multiple newspapers and sites. The primary topic of discussion was whether football and basketball student-athletes would be permitted to transfer and become immediately eligible for competition. In response, I said this “will be a topic of discussion for the next 10 years.” On April 15, 2021, the NCAA announced that all student-athletes will be able to use one-time transfer exception to compete immediately beginning in the 2021-22 academic year. The NCAA beat my prediction by one (1) year.
The general transfer rule (NCAA Bylaw 14.5.1) requires a four-year transfer to “complete one full academic year of residence”, unless an exception applies. The one-time transfer exception (NCAA Bylaw 188.8.131.52.10) has been in place for quite some time; however, the current version of the rule excludes baseball, football, men’s and women’s basketball, and men’s ice hockey athletes. The one-time transfer exception permits the transferring athlete to compete immediately as long as the following are met: 1) the athlete must not have previously transferred from a four-year institution (unless the previous transfer was as a result of a discontinued/nonsponsored sport); 2) the athlete was academically eligible had he or she remained at the original institution; and 3) the original institution states in writing that there is no objection to an exception to the transfer-residence requirement. As long as baseball, football, men’s and women’s basketball, and men’s ice hockey athletes meet the other criteria of the one-time transfer exception, athletes are permitted to transfer and compete immediately. This is a positive step forward for athletes and in line with data that shows non-athlete students often transfer during their academic career.