I frequently get calls asking if a student-athlete is considered a “transfer athlete.” This is important because if a student-athlete is defined as a transfer athlete, they have to follow strict guidelines to be immediately eligible at their next school and avoid sitting out from competition for a year.
An incoming freshman to a Division I basketball program attended summer school at the university that he had signed with. However, due to personal reasons back home in another state, he never attended classes that Fall and transferred to another university.
Because his summer school classes were covered by his athletic scholarship, he was required to serve a year in residence before he could appear in games for the university that he transferred to.
A baseball player tore a ligament in his elbow the first week of classes at his junior college. His injury resulted in Tommy John surgery and because of the need for rehab, he chose to withdraw from all his classes.
Because he had started classes as a full-time student and then withdrew, this had a negative impact on his eligibility when he later transferred to an NCAA University because he earned zero credit hours for that semester.
The first rule for determining if an athlete is considered a “transfer athlete” is pretty simple and consistent across all college athletic organizations:
If an athlete has competed for a college in actual game or event competition, that athlete will be considered a transfer athlete if they later enroll at a different college, even if they left their original college before classes started (such as for a fall sport such as football, soccer or volleyball).
The rules get a bit more complicated for determining whether an athlete is a “transfer” when it comes to the specific rules of each college athletic organization (CCCAA, NJCAA, NAIA, and NCAA).
As an example, an athlete might be considered a transfer when they move from a junior college to an NCAA university, even though the NJCAA rules would not consider them a transfer if they moved to a different junior college.
As a reminder, in the majority of situations, an athlete must obtain the permission of their current college before they can discuss a possible transfer with a coach from another college.