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NCAA adjusts transfer waiver guidelines

Following fresh concerns about the handling of athletes switching schools, the NCAA approved several adjustments Wednesday to the guidelines used to determine when waivers can be granted to transfers seeking immediate eligibility to play.

The adjustments approved by the Division I council will require schools requesting a waiver for an incoming transfer to provide more documentation to support the argument — and more detailed verification of athletes’ claims about why they are leaving the original school.

“The overall goal of these adjustments was to provide the membership with as much information and knowledge and education as to what they need to be including in their waiver requests,” said Brandy Hataway, NCAA director of academic and membership affairs.

“I don’t know if I’d say it’s extra (information). A lot of it is information that was already being requested in the process. It’s just now letting schools know on the front end rather than them submitting their requests and staff going back to them and saying we need x, y, z.”

The move comes 14 months after a directive helped clear the way for immediate eligibility for all approved requests. Previously, the legislative relief available to athletes requesting a transfer waiver was a sixth year of eligibility. Only in cases where the student was a victim of egregious behavior by a school could immediate eligibility be granted.

Since the change, high-profile cases involving quarterbacks Shea Patterson of Michigan and Justin Fields of Ohio State have been decided in favor of the players. But the overall rate of approval of waiver requests during that time has been about the same as previous years.

What has gone up significantly is the number of waiver requests.

Attorney Tom Mars, who has worked on waivers for Patterson, Fields and other college athletes, said “massive, widespread confusion” about why waivers are granted has caused the uptick in requests. He said he gets two or three calls and email a day from parents and head coaches seeking assistance.

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