The NCAA announced in April that it will now allow undergraduate student-athletes across all sports to transfer one time without having to sit out a year-in-residence, as had previously been the rule for revenue sports. Despite that, individual conferences were still bound to their existing rules that prevented players from playing immediately in the event that they transfered between member institutions.
The SEC on Thursday was the latest to strike down its rule as the conference announced that the SEC Presidents and Chancellors have amended the league’s policy and will now allow undergraduates to play immediately even if they transfer within the conference.
“This is an important measure to further support student-athletes throughout the Southeastern Conference,” said SEC commissioner Greg Sankey in a statement. “While maintaining the expectation that coaches and others avoid improper recruiting, this change will ensure that student-athletes who enroll at an SEC member institution will enjoy the flexibility afforded to other student-athletes across the nation.”
However, the rule change does come with a caveat. In order for an athlete to be eligible immediately at their school of choice, they must declare their intent to transfer by Feb. 1 for fall sports, May 1 for winter sports and July 1 for spring sports. The athlete does not need to choose his or her destination but must at least be in the transfer portal by those dates.
“The SEC has established a deadline for declaring an intention to transfer in fall sports as February 1 in order to create time windows that are more consistent across fall, winter and spring sports,” Sankey said.
The new policy paves the way for players — including Alabama linebacker Henry To’o To’o (formerly of Tennessee) and Georgia tight end Arik Gilbert (formerly of LSU) — to suit up for their teams this fall. To’o announced his transfer to the Crimson Tide last month, and news of Gilbert’s commitment to the Bulldogs came on Tuesday.
The SEC’s new policy is the latest in what has become a wave of similar policy changes throughout college athletics. The ACC, Pac-12 and Big 12 have already amended their intraconference transfer rules, as have most Group of Five and lower-level conferences.
The NCAA created similar deadlines when it amended its rule in April. Athletes who participate in fall and winter sports must enter the transfer portal by May 1 in order to be eligible immediately the following season. The deadline for players in spring sports is July 1. However, due to the short timeline between the ratification of the rule and the deadline to enter the portal, all athletes have a July 1 deadline in 2021.