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Indianapolis Compromise: Transfer reform is likely to leave all sides disappointed

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And, that’s probably a good thing.

<p zoompage-fontsize="15" style="">NCAA Womens Basketball: Final Four Championship Game-Notre Dame vs Mississippi State

Aaron Doster-USA TODAY Sports

I have had the special privilege of working some adoption cases. By and large, it is one of the most positive things you can ever experience: the child is overjoyed to have a forever home with someone who loves them; their guardian, having fought fiercely to protect the rights of the child, sees their burden lifted; the adopting couple radiate all the happiness and understandable nervousness of new parents. Judges are smiling; court reporters are smiling; attorneys are smiling extended family are smiling.

There is no opposition or contested hearings — the tears are over; the heavy lifting is done; the numbers crunched and the compromises reached.

It is magical. Truly.

I bring up those feel-good, everyone-wins cases because the compromise transfer legislation reached by the NCAA on Wednesday is the exact opposite of that. Its passage was acrimonious. Its preliminary politicking was filled with hyperbole and rhetoric on both sides. It was largely unsupported by anything outside of a need for a PR win. Going forward, it will breed uncertainty. It still invites malfeasance. And few, outside of the NCAA Working Group, are likely to be happy with the outcome.

In a highly-anticipated move, the NCAA Division I Council adopted a proposal that will allow Division I athletes to transfer freely and receive a scholarship elsewhere without needing to ask their current school for permission.

The new “notification-of-transfer” model, which will go into effect Oct. 15, will allow an athlete to inform their current school of a desire to transfer and requires that school to enter the athlete into a national transfer database within two business days. Once the athlete is in the database, coaches elsewhere are free to contact them.

We say “compromise legislation,” because that’s precisely what it is. This was not the sweeping or comprehensive legislation some had hoped to received. Nor is it the status quo many within the profession had argued for.

Coaches may no longer block financial aid (in effect, a transfer) to a player to attend Rival U. But, in return, the coaches received a narrow contact window. And, importantly, the NCAA put a few teeth into its tampering rules, though not nearly the bite that tampering would warrant.

Programs recruiting presently-enrolled student-athletes, may now be held to have committed a Level 2 infraction. Many had argued for stricter regulation, but — again — compromise.

Per the NCAA, a Level 2 infraction is a “significant breach of conduct” (not severe, as in Level 1):

Violations that provide or are intended to provide more than a minimal but less than a substantial or extensive recruiting, competitive or other advantage; includes more than a minimal but less than a substantial or extensive impermissible benefit; or involves conduct that may compromise the integrity of the NCAA collegiate model as set forth in the Constitution and bylaws.

Scrapped were proposals to tie immediate eligibility to a player’s GPA. For all sorts of legal reasons, that proposal died on the vine. So too died the notion of immediate eligibility upon transfer. Instead, in a move that is likely to upset student-athlete partisans and some commentators, the NCAA left in place its one-year ineligibility rule. By retaining the prohibition on immediate eligibility, the effects of the transfer legislation should be mitigated, and it will likely stymy laissez faire transfers that many feared the NCAA was fast-tracking towards.

The NCAA did not address fundamental graduate transfer restrictions; a nice bit of bureaucratic inaction that will leave many unhappy. Nor did the Working Group take up legislation on cancelling a student’s aid after s/he has decided to seek transfer. And that one is likely to have university administrators scrambling to develop financial contingency plans before the new regs take effect on October 15. Both are expected to eventually come up for vote, however.

As we said in Tuesday’s Jumbo Package, when the NCAA took up these series of proposals:

The camps are fiercely divided; even among those who want to see change, no one quite knows how to get there. In the end, everyone will probably walk away disappointed. And that will either be spun as good old fashioned politics or the signs of a broken system.

The funny thing is, for the bluster of the NCAA about how sweeping this rule is, and for the equal bluster about how huge a win it is for student-athletes, it is neither. So, do we have a broken system or good ole‘ fashioned compromise?

One thing is certain, however: no one is walking away from the bargaining table happy. And that just may be for the best.