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NCAA working group weighing changes to blocking transfers and grad transfers

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JACKSONVILLE, FL - MARCH 19: Mississippi Rebels and Xavier Musketeers players run by the logo at mid-court during the second round of the 2015 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament at Jacksonville Veterans Memorial Arena on March 19, 2015 in Jacksonville, Florida. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

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It’s an annual occurrence by now.

At some point during every offseason there is a player whose transfer to another institution is blocked by his previous school. That player goes public with the story. That story becomes a national talking point for a week or two. Eventually, the previous school relents, and that player can transfer without punishment.

On the basketball side, it happened this summer with Cameron Johnson, who eventually found his way from Pitt to North Carolina. In football, it happened with Kansas State’s Corey Sutton.

And it may be legislated out of the NCAA’s rulebooks.

The Division I Council Transfer Working Group is considering legislation that would modify permission to contact rules. The way the rules are currently structured, if a player wants to transfer he or she must receive permission from the current school to be contacted by the schools that he is interested in transferring to. If that doesn’t happen -- if a school is ‘blocked’ -- then the player will not be allowed to receive athletic aid if he or she makes the decision to enroll at that school.

The change, as proposed, would allow those athletes to receive scholarships after transferring regardless of whether or not they receive permission to contact, and that “it will be important to prevent any national policy related to the transfer environment from being undercut through conference regulations.”

The other change that was discussed by the working group has to do with graduate transfers. The rule, as written, allows any player that has completed their undergraduate degree to transfer to a different institution to enroll in a graduate program without sitting out a year. This has become a difficult issue in the college basketball world, as players that graduate with eligibility remaining, particularly at the mid-major level, transfer up to a bigger program solely for one year of basketball; in other words, the spirit of the rule -- to allow student-athletes to have a graduate degree paid for by their scholarship -- is being abused.

The group made two suggestions that would help hold the schools receiving these graduate transfers accountable for the progress of those players towards their graduate degrees:

One potential approach could be to require that the financial aid provided to graduate students count against a team’s scholarship limit for two years, regardless of whether the graduate student stays for two years or leaves when their eligibility is complete. Another concept for increasing that accountability is through the Academic Progress Rate calculation, specifically the eligibility and retention points for which a student would be held accountable as they pursue a graduate degree.

Both of those options would be better than forcing those athletes to sit out a season but receive a sixth-year of eligibility or to eliminate the graduate transfer rule all together.