CIS Will Allow Canadians to Return Without Penalty

Travis Paterson of Victoria News:

Canadian Interuniversity Sport announced Tuesday it has removed its one-year penalty for Canadian student-athletes who transfer from the NCAA. Athletes can now return to Canada and play for a CIS team without sitting out a season which they previously had to do.

CIS is Canada’s version of the NCAA. The transfer change was one of three major motions passed by the CIS membership, the other two being a new five-year strategic plan and a pilot program for increased financial aid in women’s hockey. In contrast to the mood about transfer rules in the NCAA, the eligibility repatriation rule passed with 98% approval.

The new CIS rule will lead to more Canadian athletes crossing the border in both directions. Obviously more Canadian athletes will return from the NCAA when they can without penalty. More Canadian athletes will also accept offers from NCAA institutions, secure in the knowledge they can return home and play immediately in CIS.

This raises questions about how the NCAA interacts with CIS. The NCAA and CIS do not treat each other as peer associations. For instance, neither the NCAA or CIS requires its members to get permission to recruit student-athletes enrolled at the other’s member institutions. This is in contrast to the relationship between the NAIA and NCAA (both require some form of release when athletes transfer between the two) and CIS’s requirement that members notify Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association members when they recruit CCAA student-athlete.

The two organizations are become more intermingled, with the NCAA opening up membership to Canadian institutions and this change from CIS. It would be good for both to come to some agreement about how the members of the two associations should interact with each other.

The Major Questions in the Jovon Robinson Transcripts Debacle

jovon robinson transcripts

Earlier today, Kyle Veazey of the Memphis Commercial Appeal broke the news that following an inquiry from the NCAA, a guidance counselor at the high school of Auburn freshman Jovon Robinson resigned after admitting to doctoring Robinson’s transcripts. While it sounds like the story is mostly over for the guidance counselor, it is just starting for the athlete, who expected to get his college career underway later this month.

Robinson’s eligibility and Auburn’s fate rests on three questions. First, how much help did the falsified transcripts give Robinson? Two, what did Robinson know about the counselor’s actions? And three, how involved was Auburn?

How Much Help Were the Transcripts?

Job one for the NCAA, specifically the NCAA Eligibility Center, is to figure out what Robinson’s real grades were and whether he would still have been a qualifier. The assumption is that if there was a fraudulent transcript, it was because he was going to be a nonqualifier. But it could be that Robinson was going to be close and the new transcript made him appear to be a qualifier by a safer margin. Or it could have been falsified to meet admissions standards at Auburn or another school.

Even if Robinson’s true grades leave him a nonqualifier, how short he is would be critical for his chances at an initial eligibility waiver. And depending on the answer to the next question, he may have quite a bit of mitigation.

What Did the Athlete Know?

It might be hard to stomach another Auburn eligibility issue resting on what an athlete knew, but it applies here. The NCAA could end up in one of three places:

• Evidence that Robinson knew or was active in falsifying his transcripts.
• Evidence that Robinson did not know.
• No evidence or inconclusive evidence either way.

The first makes sense. As for the second, it is very difficult, if not impossible, to prove you did not know something. But you can show some evidence. For instance, if Robinson asked his counselor what extra work he should do or suspected he was not going to be eligible and wanted to know what he needed to do to fix the situation. Or if the counselor had told Robinson for a long time that he would be fine.

What Did Auburn Know?

What Auburn knew should not have too much impact on Robinson’s eligibility, unless Auburn was how Robinson knew his transcripts were being falsified. Rather, what Auburn knew or did will mostly impact Auburn.
Pressuring a high school guidance counselor would be a serious charge for the university. It would be almost guaranteed to result in individuals being fired and charged with ethical conduct violations, and would likely be a major violation for Auburn as well. Simply knowing it will happen and allowing it would be almost as bad. But those violations take time to process and are secondary to determining Robinson’s eligibility as soon as possible.

So What Should the NCAA Do?

Robinson’s eligibility is a complex question because there are two issues right now: whether he would have been a qualifier and whether he knew about the guidance counselor’s actions. If Robinson had knowledge of or participated in the academic fraud, that would be an ethical conduct violation with a normal penalty of a one-year suspension and losing a season of competition. If Robinson was also going to be a nonqualifier, that would mean he would need to go the junior college route, be starting with three seasons of eligibility, and maybe need to sit out for a year when he returns to Division I.

If the NCAA does not have evidence that Robinson knew what was going on and he was going to be a qualifier anyway, nothing should happen with his eligibility. If there is no clear evidence either way and Robinson was going to be a nonqualifier, he should just be declared a nonqualifier and would have to leave Auburn unless he can get a waiver.

However if Robinson can show clear evidence he did not know what was going on and was going to be a nonqualifier, that would be strong mitigation and he likely deserves a waiver. Even if he would have been very short, he should get a partial waiver to keep his scholarship and continue practicing with the team, just not be cleared to play this year.

Finally, if Auburn was involved and Robinson was not, he should have the opportunity to leave Auburn. He should not be declared ineligible and forced to leave. Rather, he should be permitted to void his National Letter of Intent, transfer without restriction, and be immediately eligible if he decided to leave Auburn.

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UConn Transfer Michael Bradley’s Bogus Journey

It’s been an eventful two years for former UConn forward Michael Bradley. After reportedly giving up his scholarship for Andre Drummond, Michael Bradley Uconn Transferbut then not really, Bradley missed the 2011–12 season with an injury. After red-shirting for two straight years at UConn, Bradley left for Western Kentucky. He enrolled in summer school, hoping to get a waiver to play immediately but the NCAA denied the waiver so he left for Vincennes University, a junior college in Indiana.

The result is that Bradley has created a transfer situation that seems confusing, but is ultimately relatively simple. But his road from UConn to Vincennes shows how technical the NCAA’s transfer rules can be.

Transfer Status

The first question is whether a move from one school to another counts as a transfer. The answer lies in NCAA Bylaw 14.5.2, Conditions Affecting Transfer Status. If a student-athlete triggers one of the conditions, they are a transfer student if they leave that school and attempt to enroll in another.

Most are pretty basic, like enrolling full-time for a regular term or reporting for practice. In Michael Bradley’s case, his transfer status from UConn is clear, but he might also be considered a transfer from WKU as well based on one of the lesser known transfer conditions:

(h) The student received institutional financial aid while attending a summer term, summer school or summer-orientation program (see Bylaws and A recruited student who receives institutional aid pursuant to Bylaw 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.

If Bradley received a basketball scholarship for his summer school courses at WKU, he would be a transfer from both UConn and WKU. He will also presumably be a transfer from Vincennes in the not-to-distant future.

Types of Transfers

The NCAA has three basic types of transfers and four basic sets of transfer rules. 4–4 transfers are transfers from a four-year college to another four-year college. 2–4 transfers are transfers from a two-year college (i.e. a junior or community college) to a four-year college. And 4–2–4 transfers are transfers from a four-year college to a two-year college then to another four-year college.

The heart of the 4–4 transfer rules are a list of exceptions to the NCAA’s requirement that all transfers must spend a year in residence before competing at the new school. The 2–4 transfer rules have two sets of academic conditions to waive that residency requirement, one for qualifiers and one for nonqualifiers. Similar to the 2–4 transfer rules, the 4–2–4 transfer rules are academically based.

In addition to the three basic types of transfers, a student-athlete could add any combination of 4’s and 2’s. When determining eligibility, even the most confusing situation can be broken down to three questions:

1.    What was the last transfer, 4–4 or 2–4?
2.    Was the athlete ever a 4–2–4 transfer?
3.    Did the athlete ever transfer with an unfulfilled residency requirement?

In Michael Bradley’s case, if he trigger transfer status at WKU, he will be a 4–4–2–4 transfer. His (hopefully) last transfer will be a 2–4 transfer. He will be a 4–2–4 transfer. And he would have left WKU with an unfulfilled residency requirement.

4–2–4 Transfer Requirements

When a student-athlete becomes a 4–2–4 transfer, he needs to meet the requirements of Bylaw 14.5.6 to play immediately when he ends up back at a Division I school:

1.    Complete an average of 12 credit-hours per term of full-time enrollment at the two-year school;
2.    Have one year elapse from the time the student-athlete left the first four-year school; and
3.    Graduate from the junior college with an associates degree.

All of this should be relatively straightforward for Bradley. His unfulfilled residency requirement at WKU would also not stand in his way because 4–2–4 transfers are not affected by an unfilled residency requirement (only 4–4 transfers are). There is one potential speed bump though.

Progress-Toward-Degree Requirements

In addition to meeting the transfer requirements, Bradley will need to meet the normal academic requirements. There are a number, but most of them are taken care of by meeting the transfer requirements. One though will be a bit tricky for Bradley.

When Bradley returns to Division I next year, he will have finished three years or six semesters of college. That means he will need to have completed 60% of his degree according to Bylaw Normally that’s not an issue but it can be when an athlete transfers to a junior college after his second year.

Junior colleges offer few upper division courses, and normally a student-athlete will need at least a few higher level courses to reach 60% degree progress in most majors. Bradley will need to choose his curriculum well at Vincennes, and his need to reach the degree percentage requirement may affect his choice of school and major.

NCAA transfer rules can be confusing. If you have further questions about the transfer progress, just ask us in the comment section below, or connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, or Google+!

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Roscoe Smith’s Case Not Quite So Clear

Transferring NCAAEverything says Roscoe Smith, who transferred from UConn to UNLV, should not get a waiver to play immediately this year. The case seems so open and shut that UConn is unhappy the waiver was even filed and would be furious if it was granted. But UNLV has an argument and it is one so good that maybe Smith should get the waiver, and the rule should be changed.

The Current Rule

The discussion about UNLV’s waiver application begins with Bylaw 14.8.2-(e), which allows for a waiver of the one-year residency requirement under the following conditions:

On the recommendation of the Committee on Academic Performance, for a student-athlete who transfers to a member institution to continue the student-athlete’s opportunity for full participation in a sport because the student-athlete’s original institution is ineligible for postseason competition, pursuant to the Academic Performance Program, that would preclude the institution’s team in that sport from participating in postseason competition during all of the remaining seasons of the student-athlete’s eligibility, provided the student-athlete would have been academically eligible had he or she remained at his or her original institution (emphasis added)

The NCAA has standards for many of its waivers. Most of them are contained in guidelines published by the individual committees that oversee the different waiver processes. In this case though, one of the requirements of the waiver is published in the actual bylaw. Think of it like the difference between an agency making a rule and Congress passing a law. It is much harder to make exceptions to the latter than the former.

The New Penalty

The reason UNLV and Smith still have a prayer is due to the changes to the APR penalties. In the old days, a postseason ban only happened after the third year of poor APR scores. But now, postseason bans can happen the first time the APR dips below the line. Sure, a number of poor individual years may have led to that year, but the fact is that a school may be on no penalty list one year and banned from the postseason the next.

Sports with small APR cohorts (ones with low scholarship limits and headcount sports other than football) could also be heavily impacted by a single bad year or two. Men’s basketball is one of the best examples of a sport where a school could go from a solid score to out of the postseason in over the course of one or two years.

How New Doesn’t Go With Old

The best way to show how this waiver might no longer work is to contrast it with the waiver for schools banned from the postseason by the Committee on Infractions for a major violation. It is highly unlikely that a school which suffers a postseason ban will be hit with another postseason ban immediately following the first one. So a sophomore at USC in 2010 more or less knew the situation: wait out two years at USC or transfer and sit out completely for one year.

By contrast, it is entirely possible that a team will continue to miss the postseason for consecutive years under the new APR regime. Imagine our rising sophomore now at UConn. He decides to stay at UConn and miss the tournament this year rather than sit out completely. But UConn might be banned from the postseason again next year, and our athlete would still not qualify for the waiver.

Given the one year lag in APR scores, at the time a school is banned from the postseason for one year (say 2012–13), it will have a pretty good idea how likely a ban is for the following year (2013–14). But student-athletes are unlikely to know that since the numbers will not be made public until a year later.

And until the fall semester starts, the APR is not set in stone. A junior student-athlete could transfer, ask for a waiver because of a postseason ban for 2012–13, and have it denied. But then a rash of late transfers, disciplinary problems, or a bad summer school term could cause the APR to drop from an expected good score to one that keeps the team out of the postseason for another year.

To make the situation even more confusing, the outcome of a waiver based on the APR score has an effect on the APR. If a school losses a transfer who receives a waiver due to APR penalties, they can request an adjustment to the following year’s APR. Alex Oriakhi, for instance, will likely not lose points for UConn. Michael Bradley likely will after his waiver was denied, and Roscoe Smith is still up in the air.

As angry as UConn might be at UNLV’s waiver application, UConn stands to gain something if it is approved. And we have a crazy scenario where if Smith’s waiver is denied, it makes it more likely that UConn will miss the postseason again in 2013–14, which means Smith is more deserving of a waiver.

Two and Through

There needs to be some semblance of order to transfers when a team is not allowed in the postseason, so that an APR score below 930 does not instantly mean a team will be raided. But, the process needs to account for the rolling and less certain nature of APR penalties.

First, a student-athlete should have to have earned all eligibility points so far in his or her career. If you’re part of the APR issue at a school, you should not get the benefit of a waiver to transfer.

Second, student-athletes with two seasons of eligibility remaining should be granted a waiver of the residency requirement. That gives a more realistic shot at postseason competition and will hopefully curb athletes simply looking to latch on to the team with the best shot at getting to the tournament and take more into consideration before selecting a transfer destination.

Finally, if a school is banned from the postseason at all, student-athletes who normally cannot use the one-time transfer exception (football, basketball, baseball, men’s hockey) should be allowed to. That exception requires the original school to approve it, so to make that more likely, an adjustment should be offered to schools so they do not deny transfer exceptions just to protect an already shaky APR score.

As for Roscoe Smith, he is another in a long line of student-athletes that present a case where it would be easier to just change the rules than to approve a waiver just this once. Approving Smith’s waiver without updating the rules would make it open season every time a team is banned from the postseason. If the waiver is approved, it will be a long, hard decision for the Committee on Academic performance and should be followed immediately by plans to make that decision easier in the future.

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