The door may have just opened for an abundance of brand new options for the Kentucky basketball program to close out the 2020-21 roster.
After initial pessimism that the NCAA would not pass the one-time immediate transfer waiver until the 2021-22 season, it now appears that rule will go into effect starting immediately.
According to Ralph D. Russo of the Associated Press, the NCAA is “full speed ahead” for the one-time exception to begin starting in 2020-21.
“There was some talk about delaying changing the transfer waiver to give all athletes access to a one-time exception so it goes into effect in 2021-22,” Russo said in a tweet. “Sounds like now that’s likely to happen and go into effect 2020-21. Full speed ahead.”
Another NCAA note.
There was some talk about delaying changing the transfer waiver to give all athletes access to a one-time exception so it goes into effect in 2021-22. Sounds like now that's likely to happen and go into effect 2020-21.
Full speed ahead.
— Ralph D. Russo (@ralphDrussoAP) April 23, 2020
With this news, Calipari and the UK coaching staff will be able to explore all transfer options – not just graduate transfers – to add to the roster. This rule would also mean Rhode Island transfer Jacob Toppin, who signed with Kentucky this past weekend, will be immediately eligible this season.
When asked about this rule potentially passing in recent media opportunities, Calipari said Kentucky would receive “all kinds of calls” with players wanting to transfer to Kentucky right away.
“We’re going to have all kinds of calls,” Calipari said. “Kids wanting to join our program, [telling us] ‘I had a great year, I can help your program, can you help me? You help kids do this.’”
During an appearance on the Dan Patrick Show at the time, Calipari added that he’s “happy [he is] at Kentucky” because the Wildcats will be able to pluck elite talent across the country, but noted that the rule change could hurt mid-major programs.
“If they go to this transfer rule, where you can transfer without sitting out, I’m happy I’m at Kentucky because it won’t have a [negative effect] on Kentucky,” Calipari said. “But if you’re at a mid-major program where I’ve been most of my career, if you’re in a lower major, lower Division I; any high school kid that you’re recruiting that can really play, you’re preparing him for the next coach. So you end up having to recruit junior college players, grad transfers or kids that are just OK.
“That is going to change this game and I don’t have answers yet because I haven’t spent time on it,” he added, “but kids are going to play and play well and then call Kentucky and a couple schools and say ‘Can I finish up with you because I want to be X, Y, Z.’ I just see a little bit of a disaster on the horizon with that.”
This rule will also provide immediate eligibility for incoming SEC transfers Robyn Benton (Auburn) and Jazmine Massengill (Tennessee) for the women’s basketball program, along with Auburn quarterback transfer Joey Gatewood for the football team.
When the potential rule change was initially floated back in February, the NCAA Transfer Waiver Working Group made it clear that it was “time to bring our transfer rules more in line with today’s college landscape.”
“The current system is unsustainable,” working group chair Jon Steinbrecher, commissioner of the Mid-American Conference, said in an official release at the time. “Working group members believe it’s time to bring our transfer rules more in line with today’s college landscape. This concept provides a uniform approach that is understandable, predictable and objective. Most importantly, it benefits students.”
According to the release, the working group concept would change waiver criteria to allow approvals for first-time four-year transfers in all sports to compete immediately if they:
- Receive a transfer release from their previous school.
- Leave their previous school academically eligible.
- Maintain their academic progress at the new school.
- Leave under no disciplinary suspension.
The official ruling will be voted on in just under four weeks on May 20.
Needless to say, this news is massive.