The NCAA has issued a ‘blanket waiver’ that will allow all Division I student-athletes to transfer and compete immediately this season if they meet 4 specific criteria.
- They must be enrolled full time at the school for the fall 2020 term.
- It must be the first transfer from a four-year school.
- The student-athlete must have left their previous school in good standing academically and not facing disciplinary suspension.
- Both the head coach and the student-athlete must certify that impermissible recruiting did not take place.
While most sports, including swimming & diving, already allow for immediate eligibility after a student-athletes first transfer, without the waiver, they needed a transfer release from their prior school.
The new rule will allow student-athletes in sports like swimming & diving to become immediately eligible without a transfer release. In a select few sports, previously athletes could only become immediately eligible after a transfer if they were an unrecruited walk-on: specifically in baseball, men’s and women’s basketball, Football Bowl Subdivision football, and men’s ice hockey.
This waiver only applies to student-athletes who transferred from another Division I, four-year college.
SwimSwam has asked, but has not been able to receive an official answer from the NCAA, nor a consensus from college coaches, about whether this waiver overrides intra-conference transfer rules.
The waiver was initially proposed by the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association and was supported by the Men’s and Women’s Basketball Oversight Committees, the Student-Athlete Experience Committee and the National Association of Basketball Coaches.
The goal of the waiver is bi-directional: for student-athletes whose schools have opted not to compete this season, it gives those student-athletes the opportunity to transfer and compete immediately; and for colleges that are competing, this would allow teams to add immediately-eligible players if their rosters are impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic, either by players withdrawing from the season, or players contracting the virus and having to sit-out a portion of the season.
Student-athletes also supported the waiver.
“We are thrilled at the passing of the blanket waiver as we believe it is in line with DI SAAC in ensuring that all of our student-athletes have the best opportunity to thrive both academically and athletically,” said Council member Caroline Lee, former soccer student-athlete at Southeastern Louisiana. “In a time of great uncertainty amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, we feel it is in our best interest to grant immediate eligibility for those who have transferred in order to best support their mental health and well-being.”
Support among other groups impacted by the change was mixed. The Working Group on Transfers, which has proposed changing the base rule to allow student-athletes in all sports to compete immediately, supported the waiver and noted it was the same as the change the group had proposed to the waiver process in February.
The American Association of Baseball Coaches supported the waiver. The men’s ice hockey coaches did not support the proposal, noting the low number of transfers in the sport and their lack of support for changing the rule. Likewise, the Football Oversight Committee observed the change would come too late to affect most Football Bowl Subdivision schools.
All other sports already can compete immediately after their first transfer, provided conditions are met.
The Council also modified the proposal it will vote on in January that would allow all student-athletes access to the one-time transfer exception. The modification specifies that midyear transfer student-athletes in sports that do not already have a midyear transfer restriction would not be subject to the notification of dates.