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Evaluating Jim Harbaugh’s NCAA transfer rule suggestion

Harbaugh wants a simpler system

NCAA Football: Big Ten Media Days Jim Young-USA TODAY Sports

At Big Ten Media Days, Michigan football coach Jim Harbaugh was asked about former Michigan wideout Oliver Martin and if he’d allow him to play this upcoming season for the Iowa Hawkeyes. Harbaugh made it clear he has no control as to whether Martin plays or not and that it’s up to the NCAA.

This exchange led to Harbaugh sharing his overall thoughts on transfer rules and the type of system he’d like to see put in place instead.

“It should be clear to what the rules are for youngsters when they transfer,” Harbaugh said. “My opinion is that every student athlete should have a one-time ability to transfer and not have to sit out a year, and then if they were to transfer a second time, then the previous rule that we had, where you had to sit out a year of eligibility, and with that, I would also keep the graduate transfer rule that we have in place right now, where you can graduate and transfer and become immediately eligible.”

The current system is a case-by-case basis that isn’t exactly definitive as to whether a player will be granted immediate eligibility or not. There have been cases where similar circumstances occur for a player, with Player A receiving immediate eligibility, while Player B has to sit out a year before playing for their new institution. The current system looks and feels far too subjective.

“You have one time where you can transfer, be immediately eligible,” Harbaugh said. “A second time you’d have to sit out a year, while still having the graduate transfer rule. It would be good to just have a clear, concise, where everybody understands what the ramifications are. I think that would be a fair way to proceed.”

There will be some type of reform to the transfer system at some point in the next few years, where exactly that reform leads is anyone’s guess. However, Harbaugh’s idea is simple, plausible, and would lead to a more transparent system than is currently in place.

With Harbaugh’s idea, every player would know exactly where they stand, the likelihood of a student athlete having to lawyer up (i.e. Shea Patterson’s Ole Miss situation) to gain immediate eligibility would greatly diminish. They’d just be immediately eligible, no legal battles necessary.

The transfer system has received scrutiny when high profile coaches such as Jimbo Fisher leave their institution (Florida State) to take a new job for a boatload of money (Texas A&M) without any type of repercussion, but then a former player at FSU may have to sit out a year if they want to go elsewhere. That type of construct doesn’t make sense, and needs to change.

A player getting a waiver to receive immediate eligibility is too long of a process, and seems like it’s in the same vein as pulling teeth. The process isn’t easy and breezy. Lots of paperwork is involved, lots of red tape, headaches, and nights for these players wondering if they’ll get to play this season or not.

Harbaugh’s idea was off the cuff, but it’s a good starting block to build upon what should be a new transfer system. It’s simple, easy to comprehend, and allows players to shape their destiny how they see fit in the time-frame they see fit. Harbaugh’s idea provides a mechanism to where a player gets one immediate transfer before kicking back to the old (current) transfer system, so there’s a safety net to where immediate eligibility cannot be abused.

What do you think of Harbaugh’s idea?