Per Pat Forde and Ross Dellenger, the NCAA is proposing a major change to the transfer rules, allowing a one-time exemption from the normal one-year residence rule and letting any transfer play immediately at a new school after the first transfer. If passed, the rule would take effect for the 2021-22 academic year.
I have a couple of thoughts on this. On the one hand, the NCAA’s waiver process has gotten out of control, with such a large percentage of players getting waivers to play immediately that it already has a de facto exemption in place. And, I suppose, allowing immediate eligibility is good for student-athletes, which seems to be the overriding concern these days. The flipside to that is that from a high-level view, creating a world in which more and more programs rely on players who are in the program for only a year or two is probably bad for the sport as a whole, but then at least on the basketball side, we’re basically already there, and football seems to be moving in that direction. And perhaps allowing immediate eligibility would lead to more players transferring after freshman or sophomore year, and playing 2-3 years at a new program, rather than the one-year graduate transfers that have become the norm.
That said, at least on the football side, there’s this nugget as well:
For now, the NCAA is not adjusting the initial counter limit that caps a football team from adding more than 25 players in a year. However, “the committee agreed to study transfer trends in the sport of football to determine whether future modifications to counter limitations are warranted.”
One of the reasons why few college football programs have gone with a full-on Transfer U approach (as is sometimes seen in college basketball) is because the limit on initial counters effectively forces programs to rely mostly on four- and five-year players; if you’re bringing in too many guys who will only be in the program for a year or two, you’ll quickly find that you’re well under the 85-man limit and struggling for depth every year.
As far as the effects of immediate eligibility on competitive balance, anybody who tells you they know how this will play out is lying to you. Specifically, the idea that powerhouse programs are going to annually raid the rosters of smaller programs — well, that’s a two-way street. For one thing, there just aren’t a ton of players on the rosters of mid-majors, or even lower-tier power conference programs, that are of interest to the big boys; and for another thing, in many cases the only thing keeping second-stringers at powerhouse programs from transferring is that they’d have to sit out a year if they did.