Apr 15, 2021 - Sports

NCAA to grant immediate eligibility for transfers

An illustration of a US map with arrows in many directions around the map.
Illustration: Lazaro Gamio/Axios

The NCAA Division I Council voted Wednesday to grant all athletes the ability to transfer once and be immediately eligible, AP reports.

Why it matters: This will fundamentally alter the landscape of major college football and basketball, two sports where the transfer rate is already skyrocketing.

  • It will also transform recruiting, as teams build out college scouting departments in addition to their high school recruiting operations.
  • Some even suggest a "sign-and-place" system could develop where teams without roster spots "place" recruits at smaller schools to later add them as transfers.

Of note: Most NCAA sports already allow transfers to play immediately. Now, the five remaining sports — football, men's and women's basketball, baseball and men's hockey — will join them.

By the numbers: Nearly 4,000 football and basketball players (men and women) are currently in the transfer portal. This new rule will open the floodgates even further.

  • Football: Of 12,000 FBS football players, 14.7% transferred in 2019, per the NCAA.
  • Basketball: The four-year transfer rate in men's hoops has risen from 10% in 2010 to 16% last year. In women's hoops, the rate was 12% last year.

The big picture: Transfers have been part of the fabric of college sports for years. Look no further than Baylor, which got 54% of its points from transfers en route to winning this year's national championship.

  • Yes, but: As transferring becomes frictionless and even more common, college sports could start to look like professional sports, where rosters are assembled year-to-year and the offseason is full of player movement.
  • "It's not [about] developing players anymore," Todd Berry, executive director of the American Football Coaches Association, told SI. "It's about assimilating a team for next year that can win."

What's next: The new rule is expected to be approved by the NCAA Board of Directors this month and could take effect immediately.

Go deeper: Rule change prompts game of musical chairs (NYT)

Go deeper