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NCAA Division I Council approves one-time transfer exception for all sports, lifts recruiting dead period as of June 1

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The new transfer legislation was adopted by the Division I Council, but still needs to be ratified by the Division I Board of Directors on April 28.

North Carolina State v Wake Forest
Michigan State transfer running back Kenneth Walker III at Wake Forest.
Photo by Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images

Huge news that will change the college athletics landscape: the NCAA Division I Council has approved the long-awaited one-time transfer exception rule for all sports, including football and basketball. This was expected, but is not technically official until April 28 when it is voted on by the Division I Board of Directors — the board is expected to ratify the decision then.

What this means is that any student-athlete who transfers one time no longer has to sit out a season, as was the case previously, and can now play for their new school immediately. Again, this is just a one-time exception, so if a player has transferred in the past, or transfers multiple times in the future, that player will most likely have to sit out a season at their next stop (barring any sort of emergency immediate-eligibility waiver being granted).

Dr. Jon A. Steinbrecher, chair of the Working Group on Transfers and commissioner of the Mid-American Conference, had this to say about the transfer legislation:

“Allowing student-athletes a one-time opportunity to transfer and compete immediately provides a uniform, equitable and understandable approach that benefits all student-athletes. The decision is consistent with Division I’s goal of modernizing its rules to prioritize student-athlete opportunity and choice.”

The Council also approved notification dates for those transferring, meaning deadlines in which the student-athletes have to inform their current school of their decision to transfer. In normal years, there will be a May 1 notification date deadline for fall and winter athletes, and a July 1 deadline for spring athletes. For this year, though, there will be a blanket waiver for all athletes that allows a July 1 deadline, given the late notice.

Per the NCAA’s news release:

“Members also adopted deadlines for student-athletes to provide written notification of transfer if they want to compete immediately. The deadlines will be May 1 for fall and winter sport student-athletes and July 1 for spring sport student-athletes, but the Council also granted a blanket waiver for this year only that sets the date for all student-athletes as July 1. Members noted the May 1 deadline was just a month away, and the waiver would provide students additional time they might need to decide.”

The Athletic’s Nicole Auerbach first reported the news on Wednesday, but the NCAA did not approve the measure and announce the decision until Thursday.

Of course, this is big news for Michigan State’s football and basketball teams. Head coach Mel Tucker and the football program have been extremely active in the transfer portal this offseason. As of press time, the Spartans are welcoming 14 transfer additions (including preferred walk-ons), with likely more being added to the roster in the near future, while 16 players from the 2020 roster have left the program via the portal. Graduate transfers Anthony Russo (Temple), Drew Jordan (Duke) and Spencer Rowland (preferred walk-on from Wheaton College) would have already had immediate eligibility, but this is a big time development for the rest of the transfers coming to East Lansing.

For Tom Izzo and the basketball team, the Spartans welcome Northeastern transfer point guard Tyson Walker in 2021, and have another scholarship spot available for an additional possible transfer (or for Emoni Bates if he decides to reclassify).

It is important to note that football, men’s basketball, women’s basketball, men’s hockey and baseball were the only five sports where transfers were forced to sit out a season, while every other collegiate sport did not have such rule. Now, student-athletes and schools alike will be able to take advantage of the one-time transfer exception rule in all sports.

According to the NCAA, in order to meet the criteria of the one-time transfer exception, the student-athlete must:

  • Transfer from a four-year collegiate institution to an NCAA Division I school
  • Leave their current four-year school academically eligible
  • Have not transferred previously from another four-year institution
  • Certify in writing, along with their new head coach, they did not have direct or indirect communication with the new school’s athletics staff prior to entering the NCAA Transfer Portal

Recruiting dead period to be lifted on June 1

In addition to the new transfer legislation, the NCAA Division I Council also approved a measure to finally end the ongoing recruiting dead period, beginning on June 1. The dead period has been in effect since March 2020 due to COVID-19.

M. Grace Calhoun, NCAA Division I Council chair and athletics director for the University of Pennsylvania, said this about the decision:

“We are delighted to announce that as of June 1, all sports will return to their normal recruiting calendars,” said Council chair M. Grace Calhoun, athletics director at Pennsylvania. “We want to thank all prospective student-athletes, their families, coaches and current student-athletes for their patience as we determined the best way to move forward safely with recruiting in Division I.”

With all Division I sports returning to their regular recruiting calendars as of June 1, the early part of June is generally considered a “quiet period” in football recruiting — meaning in-person recruiting is permissible only on the member institution’s campus, without any in-person recruiting taking place off-campus. Late June and the majority of July is usually a “dead” period, which means no in-person recruiting on or off-campus, and has been the case since March.

However, there will be a few adjustments to try to somewhat make up for all of the missed recruiting opportunities to the pandemic. Per the NCAA’s release:

“Football recruiting will look a little different in the next year, as the Council approved several adjustments aimed at providing recruiting opportunities for prospective student-athletes whose recruitment was impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Council issued a waiver to permit on-campus evaluations during unofficial visits during the days football camps and clinics are allowed in June and July 2021 only, with some restrictions. The number of evaluation days in the sport will increase from 42 to 56 during the fall 2021 evaluation period only.”

This is a big sigh of relief for both coaches and high school recruits everywhere, as it allows the recruits to see campuses, and learn the atmosphere and culture of each program, while it allows coaches to evaluate players in-person — this is something that has been taken away from Tucker and his staff for virtually his entire tenure thus far.

Both the new transfer legislation and the lift on the recruiting dead period are major developments for college sports, and will have an immediate impact for Michigan State.