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The college athletics transfer turnstile might keep spinning.

Thursday, the NCAA's Leadership Council decided not to adopt but to continue to consider a proposal that would prevent transferring athletes from applying for and receiving waivers to play immediately at another school. All transfers would have been required to sit out a year.

The recommendation, proposed by the NCAA's transfer issue subcommittee, would have given transfers an opportunity to extend the traditional five-year period of eligibility by one year, which would mostly affect those who have been injured or redshirted or have transferred.

This proposal stemmed, in part, from concerns about the heavy use of the transfer waiver process and the perception that the waiver process has been inconsistent.

"(This proposal) is where we felt we could, maybe not reduce the number of transfers, but hopefully ensure that the student-athletes who are transferring are making the right decision and not doing it just because, 'School A has promised me they're going to get me a waiver, and School B hasn't said anything,'" Amy Huchthausen, the America East Conference commissioner and transfer issue subcommittee chair, told USA TODAY Sports on Thursday.

Huchthausen said that the subcommittee proposed two recommendations -- albeit similar ones -- one affecting undergraduate transfers and one affecting graduate transfers. In both cases, there would be no possibility of immediate eligibility or potential to extend the eligibility clock.

The hope, Huchthausen said, was for the new policy to be implemented for the 2014-15 academic year. Because the Leadership Council will not recommend the policy to the Board of Directors on Saturday, the next opportunity for the waiver issue to be addressed will be in April at the Leadership Council meeting. In the meantime, Huchthausen said, she and others will try to educate more of the membership about the proposal.

"We felt we had all the information and were in a good position, but certainly there are a lot of things going on with Division I issues right now, so it's not surprising at all with something so high-profile that more of the membership would want more time to take a look at it," Huchthausen said. "On the one hand, the number of student-athletes requesting waivers is not overly significant. ... But it's still a big issue, and it's started to impact the culture of men's basketball, and that is significant."

Huchthausen said the concerns others had with the proposal centered on its rigidity. Concerning NCAA rules, "for most things, there are ways to request a waiver," she said. But this proposed system would prevent any wiggle room.

According to NCAA data from July2012 to June 2013, 39 of the 62 undergraduate men's basketball players who applied for waivers received them. Fifteen of 16 graduate men's basketball student transfers who applied for waivers were approved.

USA TODAY Sports spoke about the issue with a number of college basketball coaches who have built successful rosters with transfers over the past few years. More than 400 college basketball players transferred last season, making it the sport most affected by transfer rules.

"If the NCAA decides to take (the waiver process) out, that would be challenging for some players, but they'd still have the option to leave and sit out," Oregon basketball coach Dana Altman said. "We don't make a lot of people sit out when they change jobs. We don't make coaches sit out. The opposite of that is coaches do have buyouts; it's an economic thing. ... Whatever the NCAA decides, we'll work within those rules."

If the proposal someday comes to pass, it would not affect the graduate student exception, which allows students who have not previously transferred but have graduated to be eligible to compete immediately without a waiver.

Some coaches view graduate transfers -- those who use the exception, and those who currently use waivers -- as college sports' free agents. Count San Diego State coach Steve Fisher among them.

"Even though we've benefited from it with Garrett Green from LSU, who came as a fifth-year graduate, and now Josh Davis from Tulane, I don't think that the transfer/immediate eligibility of kids that graduate is a good rule," Fisher said.

Fisher said that before he started recruiting Davis, he called Tulane's coach to give him a heads-up.

"I said, 'We're going to try to recruit Josh Davis. I feel badly. I wish he would stay with you. But is he leaving for sure? If he's leaving, I want you to know we're going to try to recruit him.' He was appreciative," Fisher said. "It's not a good rule."

Huchthausen said the transfer issue subcommittee examined a "whole host of things" during the past year, including those issues surrounding graduate transfers, academics and even permission-to-contact rules. (On permission to contact: "We sent that to recruiting cabinet to get some feedback, and they were really mixed in opinion on that and didn't really give us any good direction in terms of how to move forward, so we set that aside," she said.)

 

January 17, 2014

 

 
 

 

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