Iowa's Gary Barta says looser NCAA transfer rules could be in place by fall

Mark Emmert
Hawk Central

IOWA CITY, Ia. — The NCAA is poised to make it easier for Division I athletes in good academic standing to transfer without having to sit out of competition for a year, Iowa athletic director Gary Barta said Thursday.

Barta has spent the past year on a committee studying ways to make transfers uniform across all sports while being fair to both the universities and the students.

He said a vote on new rules is planned for June with implementation as early as this fall.

“It gets very contentious. It can become difficult for the student,” Barta said of the current transfer rules, which require athletes in high-profile sports like basketball and football to not compete in their first year at a new school. “And yet the student has to have some level of responsibility. So it’s just trying to find that sweet spot where, if the student takes care of their academic business and wants to transfer, they can transfer” and not lose a season.

Iowa athletic director Gary Barta has been serving on an NCAA committee charged with creating fairer transfer rules. He expects a vote on them in June, with possible implementation this fall. Athletes will no longer need a university's permission to transfer.

Barta said there is wide support in his committee for two changes he expects to take effect by this fall regardless of whether the full rule change is ready — students will no longer need their university’s permission to transfer, and the university cannot block them from getting financial aid at their new school. In the past, a coach could create a list of schools, typically rivals, where an athlete couldn’t transfer and remain on scholarship.

The new rule mandates “an accountability both ways,” Barta said.

Barta said NCAA data show that an athlete who transfers schools has a lower likelihood of graduating. The new rule would address that by ensuring that only students with a certain GPA — probably well above 3.0 — and enough coursework completed to be on track to graduate on time would be allowed to transfer and play immediately. Those details are still being worked out.

Barta said unconditional transfers — a sort of college free agency — were never discussed. It will still be against NCAA rules to recruit athletes at other universities.

“The minute a student-athlete informs an institution that they are transferring, their name would go into a database so that other schools could go to that database and legally start recruiting from that period forward,” Barta said.

“We haven’t gotten into, how would we grandfather it in. The goal is to have it set by June, but we haven’t talked about, would that apply to everybody immediately or would it apply starting Aug. 1?”

Barta’s committee meets again in April to further clarify how the rule would work. The full NCAA council would vote in June.

After that?

“It will be interesting to see if any conferences put any more restrictions on it,” Barta said. “I don’t think they will in today’s environment.”

On other topics, Barta said:

  • No Hawkeye men’s basketball players have inquired about leaving the team. Sophomore forward Tyler Cook said after the season concluded last week with a 14-19 record that he was uncertain about his future. “I don’t have word that a single guy is leaving,” Barta said. “As far as I know, (coach) Fran (McCaffery) doesn’t have word of anybody leaving the program.”
  • He has yet to sit down with McCaffery for an end-of-season evaluation. “We’ll continue to let some time pass. It’s not rocket science. The level we played at this year was not acceptable to him or me. What are we going to have to do differently heading into next year? ... I thought the last three games we played were a much better representation of what I thought was going to happen this year, and that gives me great excitement going into next year.”
  • He was happy with the attendance and atmosphere at the Big Ten men’s basketball tournament in New York City. But that doesn’t mean the event will return. “Madison Square Garden is taken up by the Big East Conference this week,” Barta noted. “We won’t try to do it a week earlier again and compress the season. So if that means we can’t go back to Madison Square Garden, we just have to decide. The good news is we have four years set — Chicago, Indy, Chicago, Indy. That’s exciting to me. I like those two cities.”
  • A time has not yet been set for Iowa’s spring football game April 20. But the fact that it’s being played on a Friday evening instead of Saturday afternoon decreases the likelihood it will be televised. Plus, all of the action will have to be played toward the south end zone at Kinnick Stadium since the north is under renovation. Barta said the decision to move the game to Friday, first done last year, was made by coach Kirk Ferentz. “Kirk tried it. He liked it. So he’s going to do it again. It’s no more strategic or thoughtful than that.”