Football and basketball coaches may be less likely to add graduate transfers to their teams under a proposed NCAA rule.
The NCAA Division I Council is expected to vote by Friday on an amendment that would require a grad transfer to count against a team’s scholarship total for two years, no matter how much eligibility the player has left when they arrive. An exception would be made for athletes who complete graduate degree requirements before the start of the second year.
The proposal targets what critics say is virtual free agency in big-time college athletics. Current rules allow athletes who have earned an undergraduate degree to transfer to another school without sitting out a season, as is usually required by the NCAA of undergraduates.
Grad transfers can be a quick fix for coaches trying to plug holes on a roster, and the freedom has been a boon to athletes looking for more playing time. But some administrators say the rule has drifted away from its original intent and graduate transfers are rarely completing those advanced degrees.
“The so-called graduate degree is really not the aspiration,” Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby said. “The aspiration is to be featured, and usually featured at a higher level.”
Changing the rule could slow the flow of grad transfers by making coaches more reluctant to take on players with only with one year of eligibility remaining.
“Roster management is such a critical component of every collegiate coach and then to say that you’re going to burn a scholarship for another year afterward, where an individual is not even playing, that’s obviously a pretty high price,” said Todd Berry, the executive director of the American Football Coaches Association.
High-profile quarterbacks, such as former Alabama star Jalen Hurts, who is now at Oklahoma, often garner headlines when they transfer as grad students. Still, the majority of football players taking this route are far less accomplished.
In men’s basketball, where the scholarship limit is 13 per team, graduate transfers have become even more prevalent.
Texas Tech reached the NCAA Tournament championship game with graduate transfers Matt Mooney and Tariq Owens playing key roles. Often midmajor conference basketball coaches watch their best players jump to more prominent conferences through grad transfers.
“(The proposed rule change) may help programs like us in the Big Sky or the Big West, the WAC, where we’re investing four years in these young men and sometimes you’re losing out on the best year they can give you, in terms of the fifth year after the redshirt year,” Northern Arizona coach Jack Murphy said. “A lot of people say something has to change. I don’t know if something has to change, but it would definitely make programs think long and hard if they’re going to commit two years of resources for only one year.”
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