NCAA Four Year Transfer Rules

The most complex transfer process can be when an athlete wants to transfer from one four year school to another. Unfortunately, this is becoming more common in sports and this guide is designed to help you know what your rights are as an athlete, what you need to do to find a school you would like to play for and make sure you are eligible to compete once you get there.

4-4 Transfers

4-4 transfer requirements are centered around getting permission to contact and finding an exception to the basic transfer rule rather than academic requirements. All of these topics are covered in-depth in other sections, but a transfer from one four-year school to another four-year school should ask themselves the following questions:

  1. Make sure you have met the academic requirements for 4-4 transfers, both to play immediately and to receive an athletic scholarship, if necessary.
  2. Obtain permission to contact other schools if you need it.
  3. Find out if you qualify for an exception to the transfer rules and determine what you need to make sure you get the exception.
  4. Gather all the documents you may need for a transfer.
  5. If you have to, work with your new school to file any waivers.

Rules for 4-4 Transfers

4-4 transfers do not have the same type of detailed academic requirements as 2-4 transfers. There are a few academic requirements athletes must keep in mind.

  1. Stay eligible at the school you are leaving
    One of the most important requirements when transferring is to stay eligible at the school you are leaving. If you are not eligible at the first school, you generally may not use a transfer exception to play immediately at your new school. If you are transferring to a Division I school, you also may not receive an athletic scholarship during your first year if you were not eligible to compete when you left your previous school. Finally, remaining eligible almost reduces your impact on a school’s Academic Progress Rate if you transfer, which can make getting permission to contact or assistance with your transfer easier.
  2. Meet the transfer credit hours requirements
    There are some specific credit hour requirements just for transfers. In both Division I and Division II, all transfers must complete six hours their previous term. In Division II, those hours must be transferrable. Division I also has other credit hour requirements based on how long you have been in college:

    1. After one semester or quarter: six semester-hours or six quarter hours
    2. After one academic year (two semesters/three quarters): 24 semester-hours or 36 quarter-hours
    3. After three semesters/four quarters: 30 semester-hours or 42 quarter-hours
    4. After four or more semesters/six or more quarters: six semester-hours or six quarter-hours the previous term.

    Athletes should not get too worked up about these requirements. If you were eligible at your previous school and you are eligible at your new school, you almost certainly meet these requirements as well.

  3. Become eligible at your new school
    Eligibility at your previous school and the transfer credit hour requirements are mostly about the hours you complete at that school. Becoming eligible at your new school is mostly about what credits are transferrable and what major you select. One important point to remember: a student who transfers before they have completed two years of school (four semesters/six quarters) generally does not need many of their credits to transfer to be eligible. If you lose many credits in the transfer, the biggest issue will be playing catch-up later on, but it may not impact your ability to play right away.

What 4-4 Transfers Need to Do

Getting Permission to Contact

The first step when transferring from a four-year school is to obtain permission to contact other schools. There are different rules for NCAA Divisions I and II, Division III, and NAIA.

Special Circumstances for NCAA Division I and II Transfers

In Division I and II, a student-athlete must request permission to contact other schools about a transfer. Requests can be formal or informal, in writing or oral. Most requests are less formal and during a discussion between an athlete and a coach or administrator. But the NCAA rules about requesting permission to contact only apply if an athlete makes a written request for permission to contact another school.

Once a student-athlete makes a written request for permission to contact other schools, the school has seven business days in Division I or 14 calendar days in Division II to grant to deny the request. If the request is denied, the school must notify the athlete in writing and offer a hearing with a group that does not include anyone from the athletic department. If the athlete wants a hearing, the school has 15 business days in Division I or 30 calendar days in Division II to complete the hearing and provide the results to the athlete. If the school misses either deadline, permission is automatically granted.

If permission to contact another school is denied, two things happen. First, the school must stop recruiting the athlete. Second, the school may not give the athlete an athletic scholarship for the first year the athlete attends the school. An athlete may still transfer and practice with the team, and even compete in some very odd circumstances though.

NCAA Division III Transfers

For Division III student-athletes being recruited by a Division I or II school, or Division I or II student-athletes being recruited by a Division III school, the rules are the same as Division I. Permission to contact from the school must be obtained, the school has seven business days to make a decision, and 15 business days to finish the appeal.

Division III student-athletes being recruited by another Division III school have the opportunity to release themselves. DIII athletes may complete a self-release form and send it to another DIII school. That release form allows the athlete to be recruited by the school for 30 days. For those 30 days, the second school is not allowed to tell the athlete’s school that they are recruiting the athlete, unless the athlete waives the privacy. If at the end of 30 days, the athlete decides not to transfer, the school may not keep contacting the athlete. If the athlete is still undecided, he or she may send a second self-release for another 30 days of recruiting, but this time the new school must inform the current school that they received a release for the athlete.

NAIA Transfers

Student-athletes at NAIA schools who are being recruited by NCAA schools need to get permission to talk to the NCAA school. This is not an NAIA rule, but most NCAA schools will not recruit a student-athlete without a release.

If you are transferring from one NAIA school to another NAIA school, there is not permission, but notice from one school to another. If a school starts recruiting an athlete, it must notify the school within 10 days about the contact.

One-Time Transfer Exception

The most common transfer exception available to student-athletes is the one-time transfer exception, which applies to NCAA Divisions I and II. The one-time transfer exception has a number of requirements, but one of the most important is getting a release from an athlete’s current school.

The one-time transfer exception is available to all student-athletes in Division II and all student-athletes in Division I except for athletes in football, men’s and women’s basketball, baseball, and men’s ice hockey. Once a student-athlete graduates in those sports however, they are allowed to use the one-time transfer exception.

The exception requires that the current school state in writing that it has no objection to the student-athlete using the exception. The way this normally takes place is that after a student-athlete has selected a transfer destination, the compliance office at the new school will send a form commonly called a tracer to the old school. Included on that form will be a space where the old school indicates whether it has an objection.

If the former school objects, then student-athletes have the same appeal procedure as they do if they are denied permission to contact a school. That means in Division I, schools have seven business days to respond and 15 business days to conduct a hearing. In Division II, schools have 14 calendar days to respond and 30 calendar days to conduct a hearing.

For more transfer exceptions and the different types of petitions you can file go here (link to /ncaa-transfer-exceptions)

Getting an NLI Release

If you are transferring after finishing an academic year at a school, the National Letter of Intent you may have signed with the school does not impact the transfer, since the NLI will be fulfilled. If you signed an NLI and want to transfer before finishing your freshman year, then you will need a release from the NLI in addition to permission to contact other schools and/or permission to use the one-time transfer exception.

While the NLI is in effect, it can impact a transfer in two ways. First, the NLI includes a recruiting ban, so other schools may not recruit you until you are released from that ban. Second, the NLI includes a penalty if you do not attend the school you signed with for one academic year. If you do not fulfill the NLI and enroll in another NLI school, you may not compete for one year and you lose one season of eligibility in all sports.

To get a release from the National Letter of Intent, you must use the release form on the NLI website. After you fill out your section of the form, you send a copy of the form to two places: your school’s athletic department offices and to the NLI offices at the NCAA Eligibility Center. Once you send the form, the athletic department must respond within 30 days. There are three options for them to respond:

  1. No release – This means you are not released from the NLI and all of its provisions are still in effect.
  2. Complete release – This means you are released from all of the NLI’s provisions.
  3. Removal of the recruiting ban – This means the recruiting ban is lifted, but the NLI penalty is still in effect if you do not fulfill the NLI.

NLI releases cannot be school-specific, like permission to contact. So you cannot be released to one school but not another. Because of this, many schools will first remove the recruiting ban, but may not grant a complete release until the school knows where an athlete plans to transfer.

If a release is not granted, a student-athlete has 30 days to appeal to the NLI Policy and Review Committee (rather than to a group at the school). If the student-athlete losses that appeal, there is a second appeal to the NLI Appeals Committee. Each appeal takes approximately six to eight weeks to get a decision.

Academic Information Needed to Transfer

A transfer from a four-year college will need to compile just as much academic information as a transfer from a junior college. Any students trying to be recruited as transfers must remember that it takes additional time to evaluate a transfer’s eligibility, to get them admitted to school, and to certify them to play. To make sure they do not add to the delay, students should have the following ready:

  • Official transcripts;
  • Unofficial transcripts;
  • Current schedule;
  • High school information;
  • Any information about your athletic eligibility.

Also remember to hang onto information you might need in only some cases, like medical information if you received or need a medical hardship waiver or redshirted for medical reasons.

Finally, remember that there is a back and forth exchanged between schools when an athlete transfers. Athletes should know who to send tracers or requests to contact them in the athletic department. This will keep your recruiting flowing smoothly which is especially important for transfers who are normally recruited later in the process than high school students.

Common Problems Athletes Face and What You Can Do

Not Getting a Release

One of the quickest ways a student-athlete’s plans to transfer can be derailed is if either permission to contact a school, use of the one-time transfer exception, or a release from the NLI is not granted. If this happens, the student-athlete needs to both start exploring the appeal options and trying to engage either the coach or the athletic department about why the request was denied and if there is a way to resolve the issue without waiting for an appeal ruling.

Trying to Transfer While Ineligible

In Division I, a student-athlete who transfers while ineligible at his or her original school is not allowed to be given an athletic scholarship at the second school. If you are considering transferring, make sure you know all the academic requirements you have to meet not only to be eligible at your new school, but also at your original school. Your old school should be willing to help, especially in Division I where leaving ineligible will cost the school significant APR points.

Intraconference Transfer Rules

Many conferences have additional rules beyond the NCAA’s releases and residency requirements if you transfer from one conference school to another. Some require you to sit out two years, other require you to sit out one year but also lose that season of competition (as opposed to redshirting). Some conferences even prohibit athletes from receiving an athletic scholarship or being eligible at all if they transfer within the conference. Who the rules apply to are also different depending on the conference. Some conferences have different rules for football or men’s and women’s basketball, and some intraconference transfer rules do not apply to walk-ons. Be sure you know what rules apply to you if you plan to transfer within a conference because these rules often cannot be waived and have no exceptions. You will need to talk to your athletic department directly to get answers on your conference transfer rules.

If you have more questions or unsure what to do next please contact us 1(800)974-2171 or

Bellevue College Sports Recruiting.

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Author: John Infante


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