The NCAA Division I council has opted not to vote on one-time transfer waiver legislation, which would have allowed undergraduate men’s and women’s basketball players to transfer without having to sit out for a year. Here are the implications, and what’s next:
The one-time transfer legislation isn’t happening for this season. When might it happen? When could a vote be taken on the legislation?
After originally planning to vote on May 20, the Division I Council instead opted to commit to a potential legislative change in January. The resolution, if adopted, would make transfer eligibility uniform across all sports, allowing student-athletes to immediately compete following their first transfer. In order to be considered for legislative change in January, a full proposal needs to be introduced by the beginning of November. By then, the Council — and potentially the Transfer Waiver Working Group — will have to figure out “academic requirements, roster management considerations, transfer notification dates” and other potential issues.
If it’s voted on and adopted in January 2021, it will go into effect for the 2021-22 academic year.
Before the coronavirus pandemic placed all of college sports in a veritable holding pattern, the one-time transfer legislation was widely expected to pass. Do you still expect it to pass?
It seems that every entity involved in the process wants it to pass. The NCAA made it clear in its statement earlier this month that the waiver process is “unsustainable” and has become overwhelmed by requests. The Transfer Waiver Working Group already proposed a change and now the Division I Council and board of directors have made it clear they are interested, but through a legislative change as opposed to a change to the waiver process.
There’s been momentum building for a change for some time, and I still expect it to pass in January.
The immediate focus now shifts to “sit-out transfers” who will have to apply for waivers in order to play in 2020-21. What percentage of these players do you expect to apply for waivers, and what is your sense of whether the NCAA will grant these waivers?
I expect a massive increase in waiver applications. One, plenty of student-athletes that entered the portal were likely under the impression they wouldn’t have to sit out next season. Some of those players are likely to apply for a waiver. Two, there will be coronavirus-related waiver requests, with players choosing to play closer to home or simply leave a certain state. That’s in addition to the usual waiver requests from players who had their coaches leave or felt they were forced to leave.
It’s hard to gauge whether the NCAA is going to be more lenient in granting waivers; there’s been no indication one way or the other.
If there is no difference in the way waiver requests are evaluated from years past, is there any basis to determine how someone like Olivier Sarr’s waiver request might play out?
Whether Olivier Sarr is granted a waiver to play immediately at Kentucky next season is one of the biggest remaining questions for the 2020-21 college basketball season. Sarr was an All-ACC player last season at Wake Forest and would start right away at center for Kentucky. Right now, the Wildcats are a top-15-caliber team — but an impact player like Sarr down low would move them into the top five of most preseason rankings. And Sarr has said that if he doesn’t receive a waiver, he will just play professionally overseas instead of sitting out.
His waiver case is three-fold. To start, Sarr said he wanted to test the NBA draft waters, but Danny Manning convinced him to return to Winston-Salem for his final season. By the time Manning was fired — the day before the early-entry deadline — Sarr said it was too late to enter the draft. Second, Manning was obviously fired; that’s rarely reason enough to receive a waiver from the NCAA, but plenty of players have tried. And third, Sarr says he was asked by the school to wait before entering the transfer portal and he acquiesced to those requests. Having your previous school support your waiver request is sometimes a key aspect of the process.
We’ll have to wait and see if that’s enough for Sarr.
Give us an example of a past player whose waiver request was denied, why it was denied, and some current sit-outs who should probably be worried based on the precedent of that ruling.
There are a couple of examples from last spring that could potentially bode poorly for many players hoping for waiver requests this summer and fall: Jahvon Quinerly and Connor Vanover. Quinerly left Villanova for Alabama after struggling to carve out a role as a freshman. He originally committed to Arizona early in his high school career but decommitted following the FBI probe into college basketball. By all accounts, Villanova supported his waiver request. However, the NCAA denied his application and his appeal was also denied.
Then there is Vanover, who originally signed with Memphis but was released from his letter of intent after Tubby Smith was fired. He made a late decision to play at California, but Wyking Jones was fired after Vanover’s freshman season in Berkeley. Vanover, a Little Rock native, then decided to return home to be closer to his sick grandmother and play for Arkansas. Despite ticking a lot of boxes for a waiver, Vanover’s request was denied.
Those two examples cover a lot of the usual reasons for waiver requests: sick family members, playing closer to home, coach being fired, former school supporting the request.
As a result, any number of key players hoping to play immediately — whether that’s Sarr or Mac McClung or Johnny Juzang or Chaundee Brown — are not guaranteed a waiver.