NCAA Updates Guidance on Transfer Rules

Photo of Seth M. Corwin
Seth M. Corwin
Associate, Corporate Department
March 29, 2024

In December 2023, the State of Ohio sued the NCAA in the United States District Court for the District of West Virginia, challenging the organization’s transfer waiver policy, arguing it violated antitrust law. Under the NCAA’s original transfer rules, a student-athlete was barred from participating in athletics for one academic year if they transferred to another institution, unless the student-athlete obtained a transfer waiver from the NCAA. As part of the lawsuit, Ohio sought a temporary restraining order (TRO) against the NCAA from enforcing its transfer rules. Moreover, Ohio asked for the TRO to bar the NCAA from taking any action against an institution or student-athlete for a violation of the transfer rules. Ultimately, the judge granted Ohio’s request for a TRO against the NCAA and the NCAA subsequently agreed to terms on a preliminary injunction that same month, extending its inability to enforce its transfer rules until the end of the 2023-2024 academic year. In response, the NCAA issued guidance to member institutions on how the preliminary injunction would affect its enforcement of the transfer rules for the 2023-2024 academic year.

Recently, on March 13, 2024, the NCAA updated that original guidance, aiming to clear up any confusion relating to how the NCAA would apply its transfer rules to athletes who transferred to another institution during or after the current academic year (2023-2024). Specifically, the NCAA stated in its update that so long as a transferring undergraduate student-athlete provides written notification of their transfer to the NCAA during the 2023-2024 academic year (the end of the 2024 spring semester), the student-athlete will not be subject to the NCAA transfer rules for the 2024-2025 academic year. Notably, the NCAA did make clear that this applies regardless of whether the preliminary injunction is still in effect during the 2024-2025 academic year. The critical component to focus on here is the student-athlete’s transfer notification to the NCAA must be given in the 2023-2024 academic year – likely before a college or university’s 2024 graduation. Based on the NCAA’s updated guidance, if a student-athlete wished to transfer to a different college or university during the summer, the NCAA’s updated guidance would per se not apply and it would be unclear if the student-athlete would be immediately eligible for the 2024-2025 academic year.

Importantly, as the NCAA continues to navigate the legal minefield of antitrust law challenges against it, onlookers should continue to monitor how the NCAA continues to update its transfer rules, specifically whether the NCAA continues to extend the timeframes set forth in their transfer rules, or whether the NCAA comes to a formal settlement with the State of Ohio and implements a more certain framework.