West Virginia Director Of Athletics Supports NCAA Rules Changes
The NCAA’s Division I Council recently approved a pair of rule changes that figures to alter the landscape of when and where college football players participate.
One change would eliminate college coaches or administrators from blocking the transfer of student-athletes to specific schools. Previously, through the permission-to-contact process, a student-athlete could be prohibitted from transferring to list of various other schools and accepting a scholarship from that particular college. Now a would-be transfer can move to basically to any college of his/her choosing, though conferences still can have rules limiting the ability to transfer within the league.
Also, the redshirting of football players is changing. Starting this fall, a player who participates in no more than four games in a particular season can still be redshirted, no matter if he is injured or not. A player will still have five years to utilize four seasons of eligibility, but now he can be redshirted if he plays in four games or fewer in one of those seasons.
For the most part, West Virginia director of athletics Shane Lyons supports both changes.
“I’ve always been of the opinion that a transfer should be more about notification than permission-to-contact,” explained Lyons. “There had been situations where a coach didn’t want to release a player to contact a particular school. I’ve been of the feeling that if a student-athlete doesn’t want to be at your school, why are you holding them back? If they are interested in transferring, let them talk to other schools and not hold them back from doing so.”
Now if a student-athlete notifies his original college of his desire to transfer, that school has 48 hours to put his/her name into a national database, which will then open up their recruitment to most any other program.
Other parts of the transfer process have not changed, though. While graduate transfers will continue to be immediately eligible upon entering their new school, a typical non-grad transfer will still have to sit out a year at his new college before becoming eligible for game action, which the NCAA calls a “year in residency.”
There had been discussions about allowing most undergraduate student-athletes, at least if they met certain academic standards, to transfer once in their career without having to sit out a year. But that idea was tabled, at least for now.
“I’m glad (doing away with the year in residency) is not part of this rule,” noted Lyons. “The concept of the year in residency is still going to be looked at and discussed. I’m a firm believer that a student-athlete who transfers should sit out a year. I think that’s appropriate. We have talked about allowing a transfer to tack another year on the back end of his eligibility, though they would still have to sit out the year in residency at the beginning. That’s something we’ll continue to discuss and look at. But for now, we’ve taken just the first step in regards to transfers not having to go through the permission-to-contact, which I think is appropriate. We’ll look at other pieces of this moving forward.”
The change in the redshirt rule could potentially have a bigger impact on college football as a whole than the new transfer rule. Now there is no reason to keep a young player from participating in at least a few games, if he is capable of helping his team. In the past, anyone who was in a game for even one play forfeited his redshirt, though medical redshirts were available to those football players who participated in three games or less in the first half of the season and were subsequently injured. Now none of that matters. Anyone who plays in no more than four games – and those games can come anytime in a season; i.e., game one, six, nine and 13 – is still eligible for one redshirt in their career.
“We were supportive of this rule,” Lyons said of the change to redshirting. “There have been situations where a player had his redshirt pulled in the 10th or 11th game because there have been a bunch of injuries at that particular position. Now you’ve burned a whole season for one, maybe two, games. That’s hard on a student-athlete. Everyone wants to compete and help his team. Now this helps that situation.”
West Virginia running back Martell Pettaway found himself in that exact situation a couple years ago. As a true freshman in 2016, Pettaway had been held out of all action through the first 10 games of the season with the hope of redshirting him. But when WVU’s top three running backs (Rushel Shell, Justin Crawford and Kennedy McKoy) all were injured heading into the 11th game of the season at Iowa State, West Virginia was forced to break Martell’s redshirt. Pettaway responded with a 181-yard rushing effort in helping the Mountaineers to a 49-19 victory in Ames, but still he lost a year of eligibility in the process.
This rule change would prevent such a waste of a redshirt year in the future, though it could also be applied retroactively, meaning Pettaway, who is currently listed as a third-year junior, may actually be a third-year sophomore.
“It hasn’t been confirmed yet, but normally if a rule change happens while a student-athlete has eligibility remaining, you get the benefit of that rule,” explained Lyons. “Looking at Pettaway, there’s a chance that his freshman year will not count against him and he’ll get that year back. We’re going to examine that, but in the past, that’s how they applied new legislation.”