On Thursday, June 3, 2021, the SEC Presidents and Chancellors voted to amend the conference’s transfer policy. This vote follows the NCAA’s rule change from April that allows all student-athletes to transfer one time without having to sit out one season as penalty. While this rule change was announced in April, each University was still bound to the rules of their respective conference. This ruling by the SEC is monumental, but how will it affect the college football landscape?
The SEC’s amendment allows for players to use this new NCAA transfer rule to transfer intra-conference without the one year penalty that we have seen in the past. For instance, after the 2019 season Cade Mays transferred to Tennessee from Georgia and petitioned for immediate eligibility. This bid was declined by the SEC and thus one of the best offensive linemen was not eligible to play football this past May.
This rule is effective immediately, and it opens plenty of doors along with it. Players like Arik Gilbert (UGA) and Henry To’o To’o (Alabama) will be immediately eligible to play. It has been reported that TJ Finley will be eligible to play for Auburn in September as well (via FlyWarEagle.com & AL.com), but this falls into a bit of a grey area.
This ruling by the SEC comes with caveats, just as the ruling by the NCAA did. According to the amendment by the SEC, players participating in Fall sports must enter the transfer portal by February 1. The player does not have to have their destination chosen, but they must have entered the transfer portal. The NCAA requires fall sport athletes to enter the transfer portal by May 1.
The TJ Finley Dilemma
TJ Finley recently announced that he would be transferring to Auburn and intended to compete for the 2021 starting quarterback job. The issue here is that Finley did not enter the transfer portal until May 6, which doesn’t meet the SEC or NCAA’s transfer deadline. Still, it has been reported by FlyWarEagle.com and AL.com that Finley will be immediately eligible. Recently, Mark Murphy of 247sports.com reported that all players in good academic standing will be eligible to transfer without the one year penalty for 2021-2022 seasons.
If this transfer rule does nothing else, I believe that it will give more power to the athletes within the NCAA. It certainly grants more flexibility for collegiate athletes.The transfer process for collegiate athletes is something that the NCAA has handled fairly poorly in the past (i.e. Luke Deal). This new rule by the SEC will allow for players to transfer freely within conference once without penalty.
This ruling will give SEC fans the best possible product on the field, I believe. This is because we will see far fewer great players transfer out of conference to gain immediate eligibility. This ruling could bring back the SEC dominance that we saw between 2006 and 2012. This new rule could also cause greater competition within the conference. Things didn’t work out at Alabama? Transfer to Florida. Try the other division. Etc.
Not only will this create more competition within the conference, but it will also allow for recruiting to pick up even more. The SEC is the last of the Power 5 conferences to vote on eliminating the one year penalty for intra-conference transfers. This may have been something that was negatively affecting recruiting, but now it is not an issue.
The Negative Consequences
As is the case with any net positive, there is at least a little bit of a downside. Truthfully, the only downside to this that I could see is a potential upswing in player tampering. With this rule in place, there will surely be tampering within the SEC. We could see coaches recruiting players while they are still enrolled at their current schools. While this is still illegal in college football, it is not out of the realm of possibilities.
All in all, this new amendment set in place by the SEC blazes a trail for player empowerment and should be seen as a positive thing. I, for one, am very excited to see what the future holds for college football and the athletes that are affected by this transfer rule.