Court Reaffirms Position: NCAA’s Transfer Rule Not Unlawful

In January, former Northern Illinois University football player Peter Deppe filed suit against the NCAA for its rule that requires student-athletes who transfer to sit out of their sport for a year. On Monday, March 6, 2017, an Indiana federal judge heard oral arguments from Deppe and the NCAA, and found that the NCAA’s “year-in-residence” rule does not violate the Sherman Act because it furthers the NCAA’s objective to promote competition among amateur athletes. The court had made a similar ruling in 2016 against former Weber State Cornerback, Devin Pugh, who also challenged the NCAA’s “year-in-residence” rule. Unlike Pugh, the court pointed out that Deppe was no longer playing Division I football, and therefore did not have standing to seek injunctive relief.

The NCAA’s transfer rule has been the subject of controversy for many players, and many argue that it is hypocritical to restrict player movement while coaches are free to move from one college to another. For Deppe, the transfer rule kept him from transferring to another university after he did not attain a scholarship from NIU as promised. Although NIU granted permission to Deppe to seek a transfer, his only possible suitor, the University of Iowa, conditioned its interest in Deppe on his ability to obtain eligibility for the upcoming season which he could not because of the rule.

Other players such as Spike Albrecht, former University of Michigan point guard, have been affected by the rule as well. After he received a medical redshirt status that allowed him one extra year of eligibility after he graduated, Michigan basketball coach, John Beilein, told Albrecht that he would not receive a scholarship from Michigan for his remaining year of eligibility. Although Beilein allowed Albrecht to seek a transfer, he would not provide a waiver to the transfer rule to allow him to play for another Big Ten program, and stated “[t]here are 334 other schools he can go to.”

Deppe’s complaint alleged the NCAA’s transfer rule is unrelated to education, and is merely “economically motivated.” He argued that transfers from junior colleges are not required to sit out a year, despite not having “exposure to a four-year university’s rigorous academic demands.” Although the district judge dismissed Deppe’s case, he did allow him to amend his complaint for an injunction, and denied the NCAA’s request to strike the allegations in the complaint which pertained to the “year-in-residence” rule.

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