It has become more common over the last two years for high school recruits to take a gap year after graduation to continue training in their sport while taking college courses to get a start toward their college degree. The primary reason for this has been college rosters being overloaded with athletes who were granted an additional year of eligibility.

Is this still something that high school recruits should consider? In my opinion, yes!

Almost all college athletes were granted an additional year on their eligibility “clock” and were not charged with one of their four seasons of playing eligibility during the year 2020.

This was applicable to Spring sport athletes during the 2019-20 academic year and for Fall and Winter sport athletes during the 2020-21 academic year. In addition, many junior college and NCAA Division III athletes in Spring sports were also not charged a season for Spring 2021.

That is FIVE YEARS of college athletes who were given an additional year on their eligibility clock – from athletes who were already in their 5th year of college at that time, to athletes who were only college freshmen then and who now have an eligibility clock that might not expire until the end of the 2025-26 academic year.

If you’d like to have a confidential consultation about the possibility of a gap year for your athlete and factors that you may want to take into consideration, schedule a confidential Eligibility Issues Consultation online, or by writing to rick@informedathlete.com.

The annual NCAA Convention was recently held in San Antonio The following is a summary of the official rule changes or resolutions in each Division that will have the most direct impact on student-athletes.

NCAA Division I Changes

Transfer Waiver Guidelines Change For 4-4-4 transfer athletes who transfer a second time to a Division I university as an undergraduate:

When an athlete transfers to their third university (4-4-4 transfer) and wants to be eligible in their first year, they can no longer use the following arguments in a waiver application:

  • No Participation Opportunity
  • Financial Hardship
  • Misinformation From a Staff Member

The NCAA Division I Council voted unanimously that going forward, each waiver request will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

One of the following criteria must be satisfied to receive a waiver:

  • A demonstrated physical injury or illness or mental health condition that necessitated the student’s transfer (supporting documentation, care plans and proximity of the student’s support system will be considered), or
  • Exigent circumstances that clearly necessitate a student-athlete’s immediate departure from the previous school (e.g., physical assault or abuse, sexual assault) unrelated to the student-athlete’s athletics participation.”

Transfer Exceptions are not the same as Transfer Waivers and will still be available.

The most common Transfer Exception for a 4-4-4 transfer to be eligible in their first year at a Division I university is the Non-Scholarship or Non-Recruited Transfer Exception.

Student-athletes who qualify to use one of the Transfer Exceptions (other than the One-Time Transfer Exception), will now be allowed to enter the Transfer Portal at any time instead of having to wait for the Transfer Portal schedule for their sport.

Softball Athletes – Midyear Transfer Rule Change

A midyear transfer to a Division I softball program – whether from a two-year or four-year college – will no longer be immediately eligible in their first softball season unless they are transferring as a postgraduate student.

This rule takes effect on August 1 of this year and will impact the 2024 softball season.

NCAA Division II

Effective August 1, 2023, NCAA Division II Football student-athletes will be allowed to participate in up to three games during their initial year of enrollment at a Division II institution without being charged with one of their four seasons of playing eligibility.

In addition, Division II football teams will be permitted to scrimmage against another four-year college team as one of the three permissible scrimmage sessions that are allowed during Spring practice.

Student-athletes participating in this scrimmage will not trigger the use of a season of playing eligibility AS LONG AS the athlete was academically eligible during the preceding Fall term.

NCAA Division III

A resolution was approved (but not an actual rule change at this time) directing Division III governing committees to work with member schools and conferences to “…establish a hardship waiver process specific for mental health…”

The intention of this resolution is to establish a hardship waiver process for Mental Health that is separate from that of a Physical Injury Waiver.

The formal resolution also noted that the requirement for a Mental Health Hardship Waiver should allow for appropriate flexibility in supporting documentation since individuals “…suffering with a mental health condition often do not seek immediate support.”

Do You Have Questions?

If you have questions about these changes or any other questions about specific issues that impact you or your athlete regarding college athletics eligibility, scholarships, waivers or transfers, we invite you to schedule a confidential consult by calling us at 913-766-1235 or sending an email to rick@informedathlete.com.

The NCAA Division I is no longer accepting the argument of “No Participation Opportunity” as the basis for waiver relief. This means an athlete will be required to sit out their first year at a new university if they can’t benefit from a Transfer Exception.

Limited waiver opportunities may still be available. However, robust documentation of the circumstances will be required.

Schedule a Waivers and Appeals Consult online if you have questions and want to discuss your athlete’s situation and possible opportunities for a transfer exception.

Only one Division I Fall sports still has days remaining in their standard “midyear” Transfer Portal Window:

  • FBS Football: Through Jan. 18

Exceptions:

There is an exception for Division I student-athletes who will be transferring as a postgraduate student.

There is also a 30-day Transfer Window available for Division I student-athletes immediately following their coach being fired or leaving to take another job.

Transfer Windows for Division I student-athletes who participate in Winter sports will open beginning in late February or early March depending upon the sport.

Also, if you’re an NCAA Division II or III athlete who’s hoping to transfer to a Division I program, you can enter the Transfer Portal whenever you’re ready to do so. Keep in mind that you will probably be removed from your current team when you do that.

Schedule a confidential consultation online for the steps, rules and academic requirements to be eligible as a transferring student-athlete, or by calling us at 913-766-1235