After long last, the NCAA finally approved the long-awaited transfer rule, allowing players a one-time transfer without having to sit out and use a year of eligibility.
Spoiler: this is not going to solve each and every problem. It is not going to curb the number of players who enter the transfer portal each year. In fact, it will likely increase the number of athletes who intend to transfer. However, in many ways, that is not the point. After years of college football flaws hurting the student-athletes, any shortcomings or challenges in the NCAA rulings will now error on the side of benefiting the players. The pendulum of imperfection has swung from one side to the other way, and that is where it should be for the time being.
Student-athletes finally have similar rights as coaches or administrators, to be able to go to a new place if they want to. Everyone has long said that this whole operation is for the betterment of the student-athletes. It’s a popular sentiment but is often used more to keep the status quo than anything. With this ruling, players and coaches now have equal rights to go to a new school if they wish to.
A deadline to transfer in order to be eligible. It’s not a free-for-all; there are still some standards in place with the new ruling. This creates a natural order and can distinguish between one year of transferring and the following year. Simply put, it makes sense.
An exception was put in place if a coach leaves. This makes just as much sense. There is a deadline in place, and if a coach were to leave for some reason after the deadline, players have the right to go as well. Logic prevails.
Not distinguishing high school recruiting vs. transfer recruiting. This would have been helpful, as it is a big reason why all transfers can’t find homes. Currently, the 25 player class limit (give or take a few loopholes) includes recruits and incoming transfers. Due to this, coaches have to decide to take more transfers at the expense of high school recruits or risk missing out on a significant transfer because they have already secured a full class of recruits. After a coaching change when many players transfer out, some teams still can’t get back up to 85 players on scholarship after signing a 25 player class. At the same time, dozens of players sit in the transfer portal with no home after looking for a better option.
How hard would it be to keep the 25 recruiting class structure in place and then add a transfer player limit, say ten players maximum per year? This effectively separates the two and allows teams to have fuller rosters, allowing more new homes for transferring players looking to find one. Seems like a pretty simple win-win scenario.
No details on reducing tampering. This is where the ruling feels the weakest and where there is the biggest room for growth in the future. It would have been more preferable for them to release strong guidelines on tampering, which figures to be the lynchpin in all of this. While there is likely no way to stop tampering entirely, there is a way to punish those who get caught, and if there are guidelines to prevent it, they have yet to be released.
Back in January, I wrote about my thoughts on the impending rule and specifically addressed tampering here:
My thoughts have not changed since then, and while I did not expect the NCAA to go into this much detail but I did hope something on the subject of tampering would be addressed during the ruling release.
Slippery slope for free agency. Does it make it easier for players to leave? Undoubtedly. Does it mean free agency has come to college football? Not necessarily. The potential has increased, of course, and it is certainly something of which to be mindful.
The fact of the matter is players will always seek to transfer to some degree. Of course, some players would benefit from not entering the transfer portal and instead wait another year or two to get an opportunity at their current school. There will still be more players who transfer out who won’t have a chair when the music stops playing. Perhaps that will only increase with this transfer rule. However, it is not my place to tell that to players. It is their choice, and this is another step forward at empowering the players a bit.
Chris Vannini illustrates an important point here.
It’s important to remember the one-time transfer rule goes both way. Will top schools poach players from lower schools? Yes.— Chris Vannini (@ChrisVannini) April 14, 2021
But G5 schools will be able to add P5 players they couldn’t get as HS recruits. Opportunity for potential stars and depth. Look at what SMU has done.
This is already the case in terms of player shuffling. Rather than changing, it seems more likely that the current pattern just increases (meaning more players shuffle back and forth between levels). More players are likely to transfer now, but it would be an odd change if suddenly transfer were only going from the Group of 5 to the Power 5.
From the eye test, it seems that more players actually go downward rather than upward. Meaning the number of players who go from G5 to P5 schools seems significantly less than the number of players who go from P5 to G5 schools. Currently, most players from G5 schools end up at another G5 school, FCS school, or no school more commonly than they end up at a P5 school.
It is likely the Russell Wilson, or Vernon Adams situations keep happening. However, after the success of Jalen Hurts types, P5 to P5 transferring seems much more likely. The case of a standout player at a lower-level school needing to fill a glaring hole at a prominent school will continue to be how a need is filled but as an exception rather than a rule. It is far more difficult for a top wide receiver or linebacker to stand out among in-house options when scanning the transfer portal. A certain reigning MWC DPOY entered the portal and ended up at a Sun Belt School, not an SEC school. This example isn’t used to pick on the player (which is why I’m not naming them), but rather to highlight that if the best defensive player in the conference isn’t getting a plethora of P5 offers, who is?
While this rule stands to benefit the players first and foremost, it seems like G5 schools stand to benefit a bit more than P5 schools based on current trends.
To summarize, this will not be perfect. In fact, things are almost assured to be messy, and in some ways, messier. There will be challenges and unintended negative consequences, to be sure. Your favorite player from your team may transfer. A new potential favorite player may transfer in. Coaches will have to adjust. However, it is time the pendulum swung in favor of the athletes. For too long, the errors and shortcomings favored the side of the schools and coaches. Now, if there are any imperfections, they will favor helping the student-athletes, which can’t be said about everything.