Throughout this past week, talks about changes to the transfer portal have been circulating through college athletics and it could have huge implications on mid-major schools like UTEP.

Under the new concept, the transfer waiver working group would allow Division I athletes to transfer once without sitting out a year of competition.

This new proposal, if adopted, will change waiver criteria to permit college athletes eligibility for a first-time four-year transfer in all sports, as long as 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.

This is the current waiver criteria for athletes that compete in any sport other than baseball, basketball, football or men’s ice hockey, per the NCAA.

So how would this impact UTEP athletics?

Like most rule changes, it has its pros and cons. And as UTEP fans know, the transfer portal has been something that has both damaged and improved their sports.

The immediate positive for any student-athletes is this proposal allows more freedom for them to be able to move around if they don't see their first university as a good fit. Also, first-time transfers that come to UTEP—aside to the JUCO and grad transfers that are already immediately eligible—will be able to play right away and won't have to sit out a season. If this rule was in place last season, UTEP men's basketball transfer Keonte Kennedy, who came in the summer from Xavier, could have been instantly eligible to play instead of having to sit out this past season.

The cons to this? Possibly everything else.

With more flexibility to student-athletes comes the chance that they could leave their first school at will. It could be like free agency for college athletes and really impact mid-majors like UTEP. That's where poaching student-athletes comes into play.

Let's say School B from a Power-5 conference has their eye set on a UTEP freshman or sophomore that is performing at a high level, and they end up telling that Miners student-athlete that they could transfer to School B and fill a void for next season.

Truly though, poaching and tampering players already happens in college athletics. Large programs are poaching players from mid-majors, like UTEP, right now behind closed doors. It could definitely get a lot worse if student-athletes were not penalized for transferring, though.

At the same time, UTEP could use this toward their benefit. They could grab players from bigger programs that aren't seeing as much playing time and give them opportunities to star at UTEP. Both football and men's basketball have reaped the benefits of getting graduate transfers to be immediate impact players on their respective squads. Now they can have the opportunity to get first or second-year players on bigger programs too.

Head football coach Dana Dimel previously talked about the transfer portal being a place where student-athletes might think the "grass is greener on the other side," when in reality there aren't as many scholarships available.

Head men's basketball coach Rodney Terry always defers to adaptability when it comes to the transfer portal. Terry has normalized the transfer process for college athletes and previously said that coaches must simply adjust their strategies to the new rules no matter what.

Head women's basketball coach Kevin Baker has seen his leading scorer leave the program in back-to-back offseasons (Najala Howell, New Mexico 2018;  Zuzanna Puc, Utah 2019).

The bottom line, UTEP has seen both the good and ugly sides to the transfer portal and if this new policy is implemented, it would force each coach to strategize how they deal with transfers in their programs and also force them to prioritize roster management even more so. But if UTEP becomes a hot-bed for outside schools to poach athletes from, this could be a detriment to these programs.


Quick facts on the new policy

Blocking transfers: If this new policy were implemented, UTEP cannot block a student-athlete from transferring, but the school could block the person's attempt to get the immediate eligibility at their next school. A case for this could be if School B recruited one of UTEP's players during the season—via text messages or some form of tampering—then, with accurate documentation, UTEP could block the transfer eligibility for that player to be immediately available to play for School B.This is something that hasn't been discussed yet by the NCAA waiver committee and could get a ton of blow-back by conferences. 

Mid-year transfers: From everything that the policy states, if a UTEP player leaves the school during the middle of the season, or if the Miners recruited a mid-year transfer, the athlete would not be immediately eligible until the next academic year. For example, men's basketball sophomore Kaden Archie joined the Miners last year in January as a mid-season transfer. The policy would still have him sit out until the start of next season.

Conference policies: If this policy goes into effect, each conference might have to adopt their own rules and guidelines for interconference transfer rules. For example, if a UTEP football player wanted to transfer to North Texas, would they be allowed to play right away? This is something each conference will have to clarify as well.

Wavier process: As the NCAA press release states, the waiver process will remain relatively the same in order to protect student-athletes in serious cases: "Group members think this waiver process should be limited to truly extenuating and unique circumstances that threaten a student-athlete’s health and safety (for example, if the student-athlete is a victim of physical/sexual assault) while recognizing the impact multiple transfers have on the likelihood that a student-athlete graduates." After transferring from UTEP to NMSU, Evan Gilyard received a waiver to play in December for the Aggies instead of having to sit out an entire season.

Sights set on starting in 2020-21: Yes, it's a quick turnaround, but the NCAA committee has its eyes set on implementing this as early as the 2020-21 academic year. Per the NCAA, the waiver transfer working group is gathering feedback from coaches as we speak prior to the Division I Council's April meeting.


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