UMass coaches weigh in on proposed NCAA transfer rule changes

  • UMass Director of Athletics Ryan Bamford speaks during a press conference held to welcome new men's basketball coach Matt McCall, Thursday at the Champions Center. GAZETTE STAFF / JERREY ROBERTS

  • UMass forward Jonathan Laurent, shown here playing for Rutgers, will sit out this season after transferring. If an NCAA proposal passes, future transfers might not have to sit out. AP

Published: 9/6/2017 11:30:32 PM

AMHERST — If it happens at all, it won’t happen for a while, but the NCAA is considering changing its transfer rules for Division I basketball and football.

Currently, if an undergraduate basketball or football player transfers they need to sit out a season before being eligible at their next school. In other sports, players who transfer are eligible immediately.

Highlighting a list of several proposals that would impact the transfer process, the NCAA is considering and will discuss eliminating the sitting out rule, allowing instant eligibility for first-time transfers.

“The transfer working group has referred to the committee on academics an idea that would allow immediate eligibility for students who meet certain academic benchmarks,” Michelle Hosick, the NCAA’s associate director of public and media relations, told ESPN. “What those benchmarks would be, no one knows yet. The decision will be driven by data. The committee on academics meets next in October and will begin discussing the concept. ... It’s not going to be voted on in the 2017-18 legislative cycle.”

Included in that proposal would potentially be a minimum GPA requirement for the transferring player and increased penalties for any school that is found to have tampered with a player at another school.

UMass men’s basketball coach Matt McCall both lost and gained several transfers when he was hired in the spring. He saw both positives and negatives in the proposed rule change. He liked not penalizing players for transferring during a coaching change and rewarding academic success. But he was concerned about creating new problems.

“I see pros and cons on both sides. When you see the astronomical number of transfers every year in our game, it’s through the roof,” McCall said. “When there’s a coaching change it’s hard to tell a kid you have to stay at that school or go somewhere and sit out. If that kid has handled his academics the right way, should that kid be penalized? I don’t necessarily think so.

“It’s going to be interesting to see what happens. I don’t know what type of situation we put ourselves in if we go down this road,” he continued. “Are we opening a can of worms where more illegal recruiting can take place or are we rewarding kids in good academic standing and not punishing them if they go through a coaching change? I think they have to put a lot more thought into it before they make anything official.”

Like McCall, UMass athletic director Ryan Bamford liked that the NCAA was exploring rules with the athletes in mind, but was wary of the consequences of this proposal.

“We’re certainly making strides in college athletics to put in student-centric legislation,” he said. “The legislation as it relates to football and basketball needs some discussion and it needs some vetting to make sure that we have the right priorities intact to make sure that it’s not going to affect one school differently than another. That’s yet to be determined. I can see pros and cons to both sides of it. ... We have to really focus in and make sure it makes sense for the entire membership.”

Bamford said preventing certain programs from misusing the rule could be a challenge.

“It adds another layer to compliance at institutions as well as what the NCAA would have to manage,” he said. “I don’t know if I’d go as far as to say free agency, but this has a similar feel to it.”

UMass women’s basketball coach Tory Verdi didn’t think sitting out discouraged transfers enough to continue it.

“I’m a proponent for (changing the rule). They’re going to transfer regardless. If they’re going to transfer why should they have to sit out a year,” he said. “It’s a tough transition. Getting to play right away would be a really good thing.”

Football coach Mark Whipple hadn’t looked closely enough at the proposal to take a stand on transferring without sitting yet.

“That won’t happen for a while,” Whipple said. “It will sort itself out.”

But he was in favor of eliminating a school’s ability to limit where a grad transfer can go to, which is also up for discussion.

Currently, if a player leaves, his former school can designate a list of places it won’t release him to.

“If a kid graduates he should be able to go anywhere he wants to go,” Whipple said. “No. 1 priority is graduating our students. If they graduate they should be able to go.”

Matt Vautour can be reached at Get UMass coverage delivered in your Facebook news feed at

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