Understanding NCAA Transfer Rules for Student-Athletes

by | Jan 6, 2020


In 2018, the NCAA Committee for Legislative Relief amended the NCAA’s standards for granting student-athletes waiver exemptions from the NCAA Bylaw 14.5.1 year of academic residence requirement for Division I student-athletes. The general principle under Bylaw 14.5.1. is that any student-athlete who transfers to a new institution is required to sit out from competition for one full academic year, unless the student-athlete qualifies for a one-time transfer exception or is granted a legislative relief waiver. Student-athletes participating in Division I Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS), men’s basketball, women’s basketball, baseball, and men’s ice hockey are not eligible for the NCAA’s one-time transfer exception, so those student-athletes must file a legislative relief waiver with the NCAA to avoid sitting out from competition for a year. The following is helpful information to understand the amendment to NCAA standards for granting student-athletes waiver exemptions.

Qualifying for an NCAA Transfer Waiver

To qualify for a waiver from the academic year in residence requirement, the student-athlete and her or his new institution must demonstrate that the athlete is transferring for extenuating, extraordinary, or mitigating circumstances that are outside of the student-athlete’s control. These circumstances must be documented and must directly affect the well-being of the student-athlete. The NCAA Committee for Legislative Relief reviews all waivers on a case-by-case basis, but the Committee has listed several circumstances that qualify as extenuating, extraordinary, or mitigating. Although not the only grounds for relief, commonly asserted extenuating, extraordinary, or mitigating circumstances include a student-athlete:

  1. having no participation opportunity at the previous institution;
  2. being a victim of egregious behavior;
  3. having an immediate family member with a serious injury or illness; or
  4. experiencing financial hardship.

Documentation Needed

The NCAA generally requires documentation from the athletic director of the student-athlete’s previous institution, a statement from the student-athlete’s new institution, and the student-athlete attesting to the circumstances of the waiver application. The specific documentation the NCAA requires differs depending on the circumstances asserted in the waiver. Student-athletes work with the compliance office at their new institution to submit a waiver. Only institutions can submit the waivers. Attorneys for student-athletes and student-athletes individually cannot submit the waiver. However, attorneys can help guide the student-athlete through the process, and assist the institution in the submission, if desired. If the student-athlete and his or her new institution meet the NCAA’s standards, the NCAA Committee for Legislative Relief may grant the student-athlete relief from NCAA Bylaw 14.5.1, and the student-athlete will not have to use an academic year of residence.

CCHA Collegiate Sports Consulting Can Help

Most clients turn to CCHA Collegiate Sports Consulting for representation during NCAA inquiries, compliance education, head coach control plans, contract negotiation, and institutional control assessments. Please contact our team for any questions. We are happy to help!

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