NC among states suing NCAA over college athlete transfer rule

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Thursday, December 7, 2023
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CHARLESTON, W.Va. (WTVD) -- A federal lawsuit filed by a group of states, including North Carolina, alleges that the NCAA's transfer rule for college athletes violates antitrust law.

The lawsuit, filed in West Virginia's northern district, challenges the NCAA's authority to impose a one-year delay in the eligibility of certain athletes who transfer between schools. The suit said the rule "unjustifiably restrains the ability of these college athletes to engage in the market for their labor as NCAA Division I college athletes."

The lawsuit filed by West Virginia and six other states alleges violations of the Sherman Act.

NCAA rules allow underclassmen to transfer once without having to sit out a year. However, an additional transfer as an undergraduate requires the NCAA to grant a waiver allowing the athlete to compete immediately. Without that waiver, the athlete would generally have to sit out for a year at the new school.

The NCAA this year has implemented stricter guidelines for granting those waivers for second-time transfers, reviewed on a case-by-case basis.

North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein recently wrote letters to the NCAA criticizing the transfer rule after it was used to temporarily prevent University of North Carolina football player Devontez Walker and Wake Forest University basketball player Efton Reid from playing this year.

Coaches come and go as is best for their careers and families - students should enjoy that same freedom.
Josh Stein

"College sports are changing rapidly, but one thing remains the same: protecting student-athletes has to be the top priority," Stein said. "This rule has been applied inconsistently and hampers college athletes from freely making decisions about where they go to school. The NCAA has long claimed that the transfer rule is necessary to give students time to acclimate, but that justification doesn't make sense for student-athletes who are in good academic standing. Coaches come and go as is best for their careers and families - students should enjoy that same freedom."

Earlier this week, Stein again urged the NCAA to reconsider its decision to deny Reid the opportunity to play basketball for Wake Forest University after he transferred to WFU from Gonzaga to help care for his mother. The NCAA reversed its decision on Tuesday, and Reid will now be able to play this season.

NCAA spokeswoman Michelle Hosick didn't immediately return a message seeking comment Thursday afternoon.

The NCAA's transfer rule "artificially deters players and teams from achieving optimal matches by forcing college athletes to weigh the one-year ineligibility period against the benefits of moving to a better-matched school. It is ironic that this rule, stylized as promoting the welfare of college athletes, strips them of the agency and opportunity to optimize their own welfare as they see fit," the lawsuit said.

The suit seeks a temporary restraining order against the NCAA from enforcing the transfer rule.

The other states involved in the lawsuit are Colorado, Illinois, New York, North Carolina, Ohio and Tennessee.

The Associated Press contributed.