NCAA Division I Council votes on coaching, transfer portal changes

Published 2:47 pm Thursday, January 12, 2023

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On Wednesday, Jan. 11, the NCAA Division I Council voted to “modernize a number of rules” across college athletics. Some of these rule changes will affect volunteer coaches and the transfer portal.

The Division I Council met as a part of the NCAA Convention in San Antonio, Tex., this week. The council voted to eliminate, completely, the volunteer coach designation across all Division I sports, instead including those coaches within a new limit for countable coaches in each of the applicable sports. This vote will up the number of countable coaches in baseball, softball and ice hockey to four in each sport. The council rejected an additional increase to five countable coaches in those sports, however.

“The council’s actions today for coaching limits reflect the ongoing efforts within Division I to modernize NCAA rules,” NCAA Division I Council Chair Lynda Tealer said. “These changes will ease the burden on campus compliance staffs and increase the number of coaches who can assist with recruiting activities.”

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For decades, softball and baseball programs across the country have been unable to hire more than three paid full-time coaches on their staffs, which resulted in volunteer coaches positions being created. This rule change eliminates that volunteer coaching position and allows for a volunteer coach on a staff to become a full-time assistant coach with full recruiting privileges.

The rule change will also increase the number of both men’s and women’s basketball coaches, giving each school the ability to hire up to two additional coaches. These coaches will be eligible to engage in coaching activities but may not recruit off campus, however.

This rule change also redefines graduate assistant positions in Division I Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) to graduate student coaches and limits individuals to serving three years maximum in that role. These coaching limit rules will take effect on July 1.

The council also unanimously voted to update guidelines for undergraduate transfer student-athletes that transfer to a school for a second time. All undergraduate student-athletes will be eligible to transfer once without penalty but undergraduate student-athletes that enter the transfer portal for a second time will be required to meet certain criteria to be given a waiver for immediate eligibility.

Undergraduate student-athletes must meet one of the following criteria; a demonstrated physical injury, 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 (for example, physical assault, abuse or sexual assault) unrelated to the student athlete’s athletics participation.

No other guidelines will be used for waiver requests to compete during championship seasons that first occur in 2023-2024. The council explicitly stated that lack of playing time, position presence nor academic preferences will warrant waiver relief moving forward.

Also, the council voted to allow student-athletes the ability to enter the transfer portal at any time – not just during their respective sport’s transfer window – if the sport at their school is discontinued or they are no longer on scholarship.

Additionally, the council voted to eliminate test score requirements for immediate eligibility for incoming freshman student-athletes. The NCAA has waived standardized test requirements since 2020 – due to the COVID-19 pandemic – but this rule change will eliminate the requirements permanently moving forward.