Most NCAA student-athletes start and finish their careers in collegiate athletics at the same institution. Those who do not wish to stay at their current institution may have the option to transfer. Transferring institutions as a college student-athlete comes with several conditions and rules that should be considered before a transfer is completed. If you have questions about transferring schools as a college student-athlete, then it is important to speak to an experienced attorney.
What is an NCAA Transfer?
AN NCAA transfer occurs when a student-athlete wants to switch schools and continue as a student-athlete at the new school. To determine which rules apply in your situation, you must first determine whether you are actually a transfer student-athlete. There are several “transfer triggers” that will likely result in you being considered a transfer student-athlete; they include:
- If you have been a full-time student during the regular academic term
- If you have practiced with a college athletic team
- If you have practiced or competed for a team while being a part-time student
- If you have received financial aid due to athletics during summer classes
- If you have received any financial aid from a Division I school while attending summer classes
If you had any of the above situations occur, then you are likely to be considered a transfer student-athlete. All transfer student-athletes must adhere to NCAA transfer rules to be eligible to participate in collegiate athletics at their new schools. If you did not have any of the above-listed situations occur, then you may likely not be considered a transfer student-athlete. If you are not considered a transfer student-athlete, then you won't need to adhere to transfer rules. If this occurs, then it is important to contact your new school's athletics compliance office to ensure you meet all eligibility requirements.
NCAA Initial-Eligibility Status Requirements
When it is determined that you are a transfer student-athlete, it is important to know what your initial eligibility status is. An initial eligibility status signifies that a student-athlete has met the required academic standards to compete during his or her first year at a Division I or Division II institution. Student-athletes typically register with the NCAA Eligibility Center during high school to earn their eligibility clearance before competing at the Division I or II levels. The NCAA Eligibility Center examines a high school student-athlete's coursework, grades, number of credits, and standardized test scores to award initial eligibility status. All transfer-student athletes must be registered with the NCAA Eligibility Center prior to transferring. Division III student-athletes do not need to register with the NCAA eligibility center as Division III schools set their own eligibility standards. If a Division III student-athlete wishes to transfer to a Division I or Division II school, then that student-athlete must register with the NCAA Eligibility Center.
What are the General Rules About Transferring?
The following are the general rules for transfer student-athletes for each division of collegiate competition. Each Division has specific rules regarding a student-athlete's ability to communicate with and be recruited by another NCAA school. A student-athlete intending to transfer must adhere to the following rules before following the steps listed below:
- For a student-athlete transferring from Division I school: The first thing a student-athlete must do to transfer is request a “notification of transfer” from the compliance office of their current school. Within two business days after a student-athlete makes his or her request to transfer, the school must enter the student-athlete's information into the NCAA transfer portal. The student-athlete should then be informed about all of the implications of a transfer and how a transfer will impact their sports scholarship agreement. This process does not ensure eligibility at the student-athlete's new school. The new school must certify any student-athlete's transfer and determine remaining eligibility.
- For a student-athlete transferring from a Division II school: A Division II student-athlete must first request a notification of transfer from the compliance office of their current school before being recruited by a different school either directly or indirectly. Within seven business days after a student-athlete makes his or her request to transfer, the school must enter the student-athlete's information into the NCAA transfer portal. Doing this can affect a student-athlete's ability to participate on their current team if they don't actually attempt to transfer.
- For a student-athlete transferring from a Division III school: A Division III student-athlete must get written permission to contact a new school. This permission will come from the compliance office of their current school. A student-athlete transfer at the Division III level may or may not require information entered onto the NCAA transfer portal as only certain schools are using the portal. If permission to transfer is not granted, a student-athlete may appeal the decision.
A student-athlete that transfers generally must sit for one academic year before they are eligible for competition at their new school. This rule is meant to prevent student-athletes from changing schools and force them to make decisions that are motivated by academics as opposed to athletics.
What Transfer Rule Exceptions Are There?
There are several exceptions to the one-year academic residency requirement for transfer student-athletes. If a student-athlete is granted one of the following exceptions, then he or she will be able to participate and compete in collegiate athletics at their new school immediately. They are as follows:
- One-time transfer exception: This applies to a Division I student-athletes who have not previously transferred and leave their current school academically eligible. Student-athletes must also certify that they did not have any communication with the new school's team staff before submitting themselves to the transfer portal. Division II student-athletes must meet all of the above requirements along with a written release from their current school stating that they don't object to the transfer exception.
- Returning to original school exception: This applies to Division I or II student-athletes who transfer and enroll at a new school but return to their original school before participating in collegiate sports at the second school.
- Sport Discontinuation Exception: This applies to Division I or II student-athletes whose current school discontinued the sport they were a member of.