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State attorneys general sue NCAA over its transfer rules

The NCAA now allows players to transfer once without sitting out a year. But if a player wants to transfer again, they must wait.
State attorneys general sue NCAA over its transfer rules
Posted at 5:57 AM, Dec 08, 2023
and last updated 2023-12-08 08:10:01-05

A group of state attorneys general announced they are suing the NCAA transfer eligibility rule, alleging it's an "illegal restraint on college athletes’ ability to market their labor and control their education."

The attorney generals of Colorado, Illinois, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Tennessee, and West Virginia have filed the suit. 

Before 2021, the NCAA's bylaws generally stated a player must sit out a year when transferring between institutions, however, exceptions were frequently made. Since 2021, the NCAA began exempting first-time transfers from the rule, but the attorneys general say those attempting subsequent transfers have been denied waivers for "no legitimate reason." 

“The rule is riddled with so many exceptions that the NCAA cannot plausibly substantiate its prior justifications,” Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost said. “We're challenging it in order to restore fairness, competition and the autonomy of college athletes in their educational pursuits.”

The NCAA has awarded exceptions for changes in coaching or when a player attempts to play closer to home.

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The attorneys general are asking a judge to issue a restraining order against the NCAA from enforcing the rule, which would allow athletes to transfer without sitting out a year.

Yost said he previously sent a letter to the NCAA over the eligibility status of second-time transfer Aziz Bandaogo, a 7-foot center for the University of Cincinnati basketball team. Bandaogo was allowed to play after the NCAA reconsidered his case. 

“Forcing college athletes to wait a year after transferring schools before they participate in their sport means missed opportunities, lost memories, and diminished chances to further their career and personal growth,” said New York Attorney General Letitia James. “This NCAA policy forces college athletes to remain at institutions they want to leave, or risk being benched for the sake of a better educational opportunity. My office has made it clear that we aren’t afraid to tackle hard cases, and that we will stand up for the rights of college athletes and everyone to pursue their passions.” 

Prior to 2018, the NCAA required a player to get approval from their current coach before talking to other universities about transferring. 

Nowadays, the NCAA has what is known as the "transfer portal," which allows players to announce their intent to move on. This week, there have been some high-profile additions to the portal, most notably Ohio State quarterback Kyle McCord, who led the team to an 11-1 record. 

"Allowing student-athletes a one-time opportunity to transfer and compete immediately provides a uniform, equitable and understandable approach that benefits all student-athletes," said Mid-American Conference Commissioner Jon Steinbrecher, who chaired a group that changed the rules in 2021. 

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