The NCAA has clarified new rules that provide financial aid guarantees to transfers from four-year colleges whose championship eligibility first occurs in the 2023-24 academic year and beyond.
The amount of financial aid provided during the first year of the scholarship must be the minimum provided in subsequent years. That aid is guaranteed through the end of the athlete’s five-year clock or until they graduate, whichever occurs sooner, unless they transfer again or engage in professional athletic opportunities. For example, if a school provides a 40% scholarship in year 1, it cannot offer less than 40% in the other years. Athletes may not voluntarily release their scholarships.
The rule does not guarantee that all transfers will receive athletics financial aid, but rather that any aid given during their first year after transferring will be continued in future years.
A school can pull the scholarship of a non-transfer athlete for entering the portal, but transfers will now have their athletic aid protected if they enter the portal again. A school can pull an transfer’s scholarship for serious misconduct, but not if they become academically ineligible or voluntarily withdraw from the team.
The new legislation does not apply to transfers from two-year colleges or 4-2-4 transfers (who went from a four-year college to a two-year college and then back to a four-year college).
An incoming transfer will be considered a counter until they exhaust their five years of eligibility, graduate, or lose amateur status. Counter is the term used to describe an athlete who receives aid that counts against the NCAA’s total athletic scholarship limit.
NCAA swim coaches have already discussed plans to become more selective about accepting transfers due to the additional financial constraints.
Although the legislation was seemingly intended to limit movement in transfer-happy sports such as football and basketball, it could have a significant impact on swimming, which had the third-lowest transfer rate among NCAA sports last year. Despite concerns around “free agency” in college sports, the transfer rates for men’s and women’s swim and dive are both lower than they were in 2004.
In another attempt to slow traffic in the portal, the NCAA also narrowed the waiver process for transfers as part of its new legislation.
Athletes who do not meet the one-time transfer exception can still be eligible for the waiver process, but only if they transfer for “reasons related to the student-athlete’s physical or mental health and well-being; or due to exigent circumstances outside the student-athlete’s control.” Previously, the standards were more lenient to secure a waiver.