Gunner Kiel was already considered to be “well traveled” by the time he got to Notre Dame. After committing to Indiana and LSU, he eventually signed with Notre Dame. But with Everett Golson looking like he would have the QB reins for the Irish for the foreseeable future, Kiel transferred to Cincinnati where he was expected to be first in line to start after his transfer residency year was over.
But now with reports that Golson has left Notre Dame, it looks like Kiel gave up the opportunity to start for one of the most storied programs in college football. But if just a few stars align, Kiel could return to Notre Dame and play for the Irish in the 2013 season.
This interview with Kiel suggests that he has enrolled in summer school at Cincinnati. As a scholarship football player, it is safe to assume that Kiel is on athletics aid for the summer session. As a result, Kiel has triggered transfer status because of this section of Bylaw 14.5.2:
(h) The student received institutional financial aid while attending a summer term, summer school or summer-orientation program (see Bylaws 126.96.36.199.3 and 188.8.131.52.4). A recruited student who receives institutional aid pursuant to Bylaw 184.108.40.206.4 is subject to the transfer provisions, except that a prospective student-athlete (recruited or nonrecruited) who is denied admission to the institution for full-time enrollment shall be permitted to enroll at another institution without being considered a transfer student.
That means a move by Kiel back to Notre Dame would be considered a transfer under NCAA rules. That means Kiel would have three hurdles to overcome to play right away: he’s a football student-athlete, on his second transfer, who has a unfulfilled transfer residency requirement.
Luckily one of the less commonly used transfer exceptions covers all three. Bylaw 220.127.116.11.8, the Return to Original Institution Without Participation or With Minimal Participation Exception says that a student-athlete can play immediately after a transfer if:
The student transfers to a second four-year collegiate institution, does not compete at the second institution and does not engage in other countable athletically related activities in the involved sport at the second institution beyond a 14-consecutive-day period and returns to the original institution. The 14-consecutive-day period begins with the date on which the student-athlete first engages in any countable athletically related activity (see Bylaw 17.02.1). A student may use this exception even if he or she has an unfulfilled residence requirement at the institution from which he or she is transferring.
This exception is available to athletes in any sport. Unlike the one-time transfer exception, an athlete can use it no matter how many times they have transfer in the past. And the final sentence explains how it does not matter that Kiel did not serve his year in residence at Cincinnati. And any summer conditioning Kiel has participated in at Cincinnati is considered voluntary athletically related activity, not countable. So he has not even triggered the 14-day grace period to return to Notre Dame.
Kiel also does not technically need a release from Cincinnati to play for Notre Dame next year. If Cincinnati refuses to grant Kiel permission to contact Notre Dame about returning, it only means that Notre Dame cannot give Kiel a scholarship for one academic year or encourage the transfer. But if Kiel were to show up at Notre Dame to start the season, he would be eligible to play right away.
Kiel likely needs a release to sort out his scholarship and to make sure he still would have a place at Notre Dame if he wanted to return. But if he knows he is welcome, is determined to return, and can afford a year paying his own way at Notre Dame, there is nothing Cincinnati can do to stop his transfer.