The NCAA's long-discussed one-time transfer rule, which would allow undergraduates one transfer without having to sit out a season, is reality after the Division I Council voted Wednesday to approve the legislation, as first reported by The Athletic.
The Council was originally going to vote on the legislation in January but pushed back the measure a couple of months. Last summer, I polled Wolf Pack coaches Jay Norvell (football), Amanda Levens (basketball), Steve Alford (basketball) and T.J. Bruce (baseball) as well as athletic director Doug Knuth on whether they were in favor of a one-time transfer rule. Their full thoughts are here, but Norvell, Alford and Bruce were against it and Levens and Knuth for it.
The one-time transfer had been available to athletes in most NCAA sports. Only football, men's and women's basketball, baseball and men's ice hockey athletes had to sit a season when transferring as an undergraduate. But that's no longer the case. How will this impact the Wolf Pack next season? Let's take a look.
Nevada has added four Division I transfers this offseason in South Florida cornerback Bentlee Sanders, William and Mary safety Miles Hayes, Florida International defensive end Chris Whittaker and Wake Forest transfer Isaiah Essissima. Sanders and Hayes are grad transfers and were eligible to play in 2021 before the one-time transfer rule passed. Essissima had played for Wake Forest for only two seasons, so he would have been forced to redshirt in 2021. Now, he'll be eligible this year. Essissima played sparingly for Wake Forest with six tackles in 16 games, but he's one of Nevada's fastest players and will compete for a starting job at outside cornerback. Whittaker is entering his fifth season of college after two years at Kentucky and two at FIU. If he graduated from FIU, he'd be eligible in 2021 as a grad transfer. If not, he won't be allowed to use the one-time transfer rule to play for Nevada next season because this is his second transfer.
In non-Nevada news, the ruling is a great development for Reno High product Brandon Kaho, who transferred from Alabama to UCLA (with a commitment to Utah in between) this offseason and is now eligible to play for the Bruins in 2021 rather than being forced to use his redshirt year. He has two seasons of eligibility remaining.
This week's vote is beneficial to Nevada basketball, which has added two transfers in Oregon's Addison Patterson and Texas' Will Baker. Both joined the Wolf Pack at the semester break. While Nevada would have petitioned to have both players eligible at the start of next season rather than next year's semester break (since that's when they enrolled in the school), that would have been a coin-flip situation. Now, there's no gray area. Patterson, a 6-foot-6 wing scorer, and Baker, a 7-foot big, will both be eligible at the start of the 2021-22 season and fight for spots in the starting lineup. Nevada will be full strength at the start of the season rather than having to blend in two big-minute players during the middle of the year. Additionally, Nevada has one remaining scholarship that will almost certainly go to a transfer. Rather than limiting itself to only grad transfers who could help immediately, Nevada's pool of potential transfers who could make an impact next season just got a lot bigger as any undergraduate who is transferring for the first time would be eligible this upcoming season.
In non-Nevada news, the ruling doesn't help Galena High product Moses Wood, who entered the transfer portal Wednesday night. Wood began his career at Tulane before transferring to UNLV. He'll be transferring for a second time, so the one-time transfer rule doesn't apply to his situation. And he's already used a redshirt year, sitting out at UNLV in 2019-20 under NCAA rules. Wood can petition to be eligible immediately, but there's a good chance he has to sit out next season if he stays at the Division I level (and it will cost him a year of eligibility since he already used his redshirt).
On Wednesday, Nevada announced the addition of Portland State transfer Kylie Jimenez, a four-year starter for the Vikings who will likely step in as the Wolf Pack's starting point guard. A defensive ace with an excellent assist-to-turnover ratio, Jimenez is a graduate transfer who would have been eligible to play for Nevada this upcoming season whether the one-time rule passed or not. The Wolf Pack has one open scholarship remaining and could deploy that on a transfer who, even if she's an undergraduate, would be immediately eligible as long as it is that player's first transfer.
Additionally, Nevada basketball transfers leaving the program like Kane Milling (UC Davis), Zane Meeks, Robby Robinson, Dom Phillips (Grand Canyon) and LaPraisjah Johnson will all be eligible at their new schools immediately.
That's the short-term impact. The long-term impacts are harder to sort out. The concern is mid-major programs like Nevada would be used as a farm systems for Power 5 schools, something Norvell has talked about in the past.
Here's what Alford said about the one-time transfer rule last summer: "I’m not sure I’m in favor of it being in the Mountain West just because there could be times where you get a Jalen Harris type and all of a sudden he has two really good years and now it’s, ‘I have a chance to go to Kentucky. I can go to Duke.’ That worries me a little bit being in the Mountain West, as far as that being a rule, but I can see it coming."
Conversely, the one-time transfer rule could help Wolf Pack programs get Power 5 players looking for more minutes at a non-power conference school. Nevada basketball has had a number of those players in recent years, including Caleb and Cody Martin, Kendall Stephens, Warren Washington, etc. There's certainly risk Nevada's best players level up to the Power 5 after a good year or two with the Wolf Pack, but the double-edged sword can swing both ways if the Wolf Pack wants it to. Either way, a new era of college athletics is here with transfers now getting the same rights as coaches who break their contracts and leave their schools for bigger jobs without having to sit out a season.
Columnist Chris Murray provides insight on Northern Nevada sports. Contact him at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @ByChrisMurray.