The NCAA on Friday reversed a ruling earlier this week that appeared to close the transfer portal at the close of the fall semester, confusing college football coaches and compliance officers across the country. By waiving their instructions, players will be able to move from one semester to another, enroll in new schools, and participate in these programs in the spring, despite the confusion in the rest.
Legislation passed in August indicates that programs will not be able to add undergraduate transfers between semesters, given the annual financial aid limit of 85 fellows. This would leave potentially thousands of athletes in limbo who are already logged into the portal, waiting to enroll and start training at a new school at the start of the spring semester.
One compliance veteran described the situation this way: The portal is full of athletes looking for an open door. The effect of the current NCAA language is that all doors will be closed.
“It means they are effectively shutting down the portal,” Power Five’s head coach told CBS Sports. “It’s a cluster.”
The NCAA did not respond to a request for clarification on Thursday. However, documents sent out to NCAA members on Tuesday were removed from the association’s website Thursday afternoon, with a leadership change expected Friday.
Under NCAA rules, a football team that has reached its annual limit of 85 scholarships may replace some of these players between semesters under a variety of circumstances: transfers, suspensions, releases, leaving the team. The documents sent out stated that no four-year transfer could replace and not take into account the maximum annual scholarship in this sport.
Thus, the only students who could replace these lost scholarships would be incoming high school athletes and transfer graduates. Such a circumstance would conflict with the current move to deregulate the NCAA and create a more athlete-friendly environment; it could also potentially cause legal problems.
“People in charge of compliance in conference offices around the country have had their phones explode,” said an NCAA compliance expert who spoke to CBS Sports on condition of anonymity. “Which [the NCAA] took a lot of people by surprise here.”
What was called “guidance” in two NCAA documents sent out earlier this week contradicted what most coaches, compliance officers and administrators understood as the 2022-2020 Proposal. At the end of August, the 2022-2020 NCAA Board of Directors set transfer windows across all sports. An NCAA Division I Q&A document dated Tuesday suggests whether “the upcoming four-year undergraduate transfer will [can] replace counter [departed athlete] using an existing exception?”
The answer from the NCAA: “No.”
One source of correspondence called this definition a “record screech”.
As a general rule, schools replacing departed athletes between semesters are allowed to count this scholarship towards the next academic year if they exceed the maximum number of scholarships. In football, this is 85 per year, with a limit of 25 per recruit class. In men’s basketball, this number is 13 per year and is not limited to that number in any recruiting class.