|If you and/or your head coaches see the graduate transfer landscape as problematic, what are some realistic solutions given current voting dynamics and implementation challenges?
Maggie McKinley – Cincinnati (Executive Senior Associate AD/SWA): If the graduate transfer landscape is seen as problematic in the sense that graduate transfers are not, statistically speaking, completing the graduate degree/program at their new institution, one potential solution would be expanding the NCAA Degree Completion award to graduate students to finish their programs. For student-athletes that have exhausted their eligibility, this would provide those who desire to finish their degree program a financial opportunity to cover the cost of tuition and fees, just as it does for undergraduates. The desire to finish is the key implementation challenge, there is nothing we as a membership can legislate that can change a person’s desire to finish a postgraduate degree program, especially when the person has the ability to pursue a career within their field with an undergraduate degree.
From a different perspective, if the concern is graduate transfers are leaving their undergraduate institutions to finish their eligibility at another institution, then I wonder why undergraduates serving a year in residence lessens the concern when the hope is that each type of transfer is seeking an opportunity to flourish in a different environment. I do not see the graduate transfer landscape as any more problematic than the undergraduate transfer landscape, but I also understand where some coaches are coming from with their concerns over the often unexpected departure of a student-athlete that they have developed for three or four years. The current legislation was written in a manner that one parameter specifically addresses that the graduate student-athlete has had their aid non-renewed for the subsequent year – thus a lost opportunity to continue on aid, and likely continue on the team. Using the legislation as it was intended to be used would be a solution. Adding the ability for a graduate student-athlete who did not meet the parameters to be eligible for competition after serving a year in residence with a clock extension, if necessary, would be a supplemental solution, although not one that I would think would eliminate graduate transfers.
Side note: Before taking legislative action that would change eligibility requirements for graduate student-athletes to encourage completion of the program, we should ask ourselves if we as a membership want to transition from past rationale centering on enhancing the ability to earn an undergraduate degree in a five-year period to earning an undergraduate and graduate degree within a five-year (or six-year) period. Thinking back to rationale statements in proposals related to progress towards degree benchmarks, permissible legislation related to summer school aid prior to initial enrollment and participation by student-athletes in summer CARA, there was a common theme. That common theme centered on fulfilling necessary academic commitments towards graduation from a four-year degree program. Is there or could there be unintended consequences for our high-achieving student-athletes who are finishing their undergraduate degrees prior to exhausting their four years of eligibility who want to continue participation at another institution? We’ve increased opportunities to finish an undergraduate degree and now that student-athletes are graduating at a higher rate, and still want to continue participation at another institution, we are sitting around tables discussing this as if it’s a problem. Reward them, do not penalize them for their achievement.
Tricia Turley Brandenburg – Towson (Deputy AD/SWA): There are two significant issues related to the graduate transfer landscape: degree completion and poaching. In terms of degree completion, we have been fortunate here at Towson to have had 100 percent of our graduate basketball student-athlete transfers complete their graduate degrees here at Towson with two summers and the academic year, so we do not have the same issues as seen at other institutions in terms of degree completion. I do, however, believe that there should be more at stake with APR, particularly with the impending Values Based Revenue Distribution, related to graduate transfers and degree completion. If there is both a monetary (Values Based Revenue Distribution) and post-season risk (APR) associated with graduate transfers, I believe coaches and institutions would evaluate that risk more cautiously and make decisions that better promote student-athlete well-being, which could also limit the poaching concerns. Additionally, in regards to poaching, we need to enforce our existing rules and consider updating the contact rule to include all individuals associated with a prospect (e.g., high school, AAU coaches).
Bryan Blair – Rice (Senior Associate AD for Sport Administration & Compliance): Feelings toward the graduate transfer exception are generally a matter of perspective. A coach losing their top point guard due to the exception feels drastically different than a student-athlete who wants to attend a specific graduate school because of their area of focus, etc. I believe we should celebrate our student-athletes obtaining degrees. I’m not oblivious to the abuses of this rule and the statistics on these transfers actually graduating, but in some ways, we (NCAA membership) created this epidemic. Student-athletes attend summer school at a higher rate than ever and, as a result, many finish their degrees faster than ever. I think one solution is to re-evaluate the legislation around summer school and required practice. Could this time be better spent gaining real-world experience through summer internships, study abroad, etc., to give our student-athletes a scholastic experience more similar to their general student counterparts? Many student-athletes, especially in the sports of football and basketball, practice and attend school year round. There are many other solutions that have been discussed regarding this rule, but I think we should focus on finding ways to enrich their current student-athlete experience, better preparing them for life after sports.