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Student-athlete group proposes changes to NCAA recruiting, transfer rules

The Division I Student-Athlete Advisory Committee on Thursday announced a number of proposed changes to the NCAA's transfer and recruiting rules.

At the top of the list would be a major change to transfer policy, and one that has already been proposed by other NCAA committees: no longer requiring transferring players to receive their current institution's approval to leave for a new one. This would end coaches' ability to block players from leaving for a conference rival, an opponent on a future schedule or the new school of a former coach. It's also, as I have argued on this site before, smart policy for coaches to yield on.

SAAC proposed replacing the rule that requires student-athletes to get permission to speak with coaches at a different school. The committee recommends a process through which student-athletes would have to notify their current school, but would not have to seek permission. The school could not restrict the student-athlete’s recruiting contact with other coaches.

“With transfers, one of the big things we are looking at is getting transparency," former Miami (Ohio) field hockey player and SAAC co-chair Kelsi White said. "The student-athlete is up-front; they are telling their coach, but also having the leeway a normal student would have to go wherever they need regarding academics and/or sports,” White said. “We want to make sure we are not limiting student-athletes from pursuing what they need to pursue.”

The SAAC, unsurprisingly, recommended that graduate students be free to leave without penalty, provided they do not transfer inside their own conference.

SAAC members believe all sports should have uniform transfer rules. Generally, SAAC believes student-athletes should be able to transfer once during their undergraduate years without restriction, unless the transfer is within conference. For intraconference transfers, members proposed that the students sit out from competition for a year. Students who transfer more than once should be required to sit out of competition following each subsequent transfer, the SAAC members recommended.

On the recruiting front, the SAAC proposed these guidelines:

  • No recruiting contact at all before ninth grade.
  • Recruits can contact coaches before Jan. 1 of 10th grade, but coaches must wait until the Jan. 1 date, when unlimited text messages and emails (lol) will be allowed -- but phone calls and verbal commitments would not.
  • Phone calls would begin in 11th grade, but coaches could not accept verbal commitments until Jan. 1 of a prospect's 11th grade year.
  • Signing period should begin in December of a recruit's senior year (November for other sports) and remain open until August.

“SAAC came out with a model that makes a difference in the recruiting landscape,” former Sacred Heart golfer and SAAC co-chairman Connor Donnelly said. “It will take some pressure off prospective student-athletes mentally by giving them more time to develop and make an educated and informed decision in the long term.”

The recommendations will be given to the Division I Student-Athlete Experience Committee, and then make their way through the NCAA's legislative digestive system.

Will any of these recommendations ever see the light of day? Probably not -- particularly the unenforceable "no commitments until Jan. 1 of your junior year" rule. But the thoughts are now officially out there.