Hot Reads: Walk-Ons Have Increased Freedom with New Rule Change
Photo Credit: Eric Francis

Hot Reads: Walk-Ons Have Increased Freedom with New Rule Change

April 23, 2019

The NCAA thought about making a significant change to its graduate transfer rules last week. The Division I Council considered a proposal that would count graduate transfers in football and basketball against scholarship limits for two years, regardless of how many years the student-athlete actually played, if that student-athlete didn't earn a graduate degree. Most grad transfers only play one year at their new schools, making this a pretty hefty penalty.

The Council considered the proposal and then defeated the proposal, meaning no change is coming to the current grad transfer rule. That seemed like a sensible decision to me, for reasons already discussed, but the Council did make two smaller changes that are somewhat intriguing.

The first allows student-athletes who enroll in the summer to transfer without sitting out a year if their head coach leaves before the start of the school year in the fall. So let's say Darien Chase, a 2019 Nebraska signee, arrives in May for the start of summer school and then Scott Frost leaves Nebraska to be an offensive analyst at Alabama in July. Chase, and any other freshman in his spot, would be able to transfer to a new school for the fall and play right away.

As you perhaps sensed from the scenario described above, this seems like a pretty unlikely event, at least in the revenue sports. How many football coaches change jobs in July? Not many. Some do resign in the summer––Hugh Freeze had to, Bob Stoops chose to––so I guess there are a few applications for this new rule, and I'd rather student-athletes have the option here than not. But this change seems like one that will be relatively minor.

The second change is more interesting to think about. The Council approved a rule that will allow walk-ons to transfer without sitting out a year.

On the one hand, good for walk-ons. As student-athletes paying their own way, why weren't they already allowed to change schools the way any other paying student would?

On the other hand, I guess this at least opens up the possibility that, for a program that relies heavily on walk-ons (if anyone knows one of those), good walk-ons could parlay success at one school into a scholarship at another and not risk missing a year. A program that relies heavily on walk-ons would probably want at least a plan in place (i.e. scholarships reserved) for just such a scenario.

That said, that very scenario strikes me as a pretty rare occurrence. The ability to transfer without sitting out a year isn't necessarily an incentive to transfer, though we often overreact to these rule changes and treat it as the latter. Put it this way, if Brody Belt emerges as an honorable mention All-Big Ten running back this season I don't think he ends up playing at Iowa, on scholarship, the following year very often.

He just has the option to do that now, as he should in my opinion.

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