January 9, 2009

NCAA Volleyball Student-Athlete Transfer Rules

I have been receiving a number of e-mail questions with regards to current student-athletes wishing to transfer schools. Since these are current players and I do not have documentation from the player's institution granting my school Permission to Contact, aka a Release, I have not been able to answer the questions - NCAA rules.

This is the time of year when college transfers happen and transferring is becoming much more common than just a few years ago; I would go far as to say the Holidays can also be known as the Transfer Season.

There tends to be three reasons that a transfer situation comes about:

1. There was a coaching change and the fit is not good for either the player or for the program.

2. The player made a commitment too early to the school/program, and now after being there for a year or two, realizes that this is not the place for her.

3. The player wants to play - Sometimes a player will not break into the starting line up no matter how hard they train.

While most people will gravitate towards the coaching change as the spark for players transferring, it tends to be the other two. Yes, coaching changes do happen and cause transfers, but usually these staff transitions work out fine with the returning players accepting the change.

Whatever the motivation, more and more student-athletes are transferring and it is important that the rules be understood. A few things to know:

1. It is against NCAA rules for coaches to have contact (in person, over the phone, e-mail) with any player or family of a player that is currently competing at another NCAA institution (and to be safe, most Compliance Directors will want a release from NAIA schools), without having a copy of the Permission to Contact or Release documentation from the player's athletic department.

This means that you can e-mail, call or write another institution, but they are not allowed to respond or even discuss the matter if you reach them. Some families will use the player's former high school or club coach to initiate contact, but this is a gray area that most upstanding programs will shy away from.

2. The Permission to Contact letter comes from the athletic department's Compliance Director, not from the volleyball coach. No Compliance Director will issue a Release without first visiting with the volleyball coach, so do not try an end run around the coach.

3. There are two types of Releases - Blanket Release and Specific School Release. A Blanket Release means you can contact any other NCAA institution (with the exception of conference or league members; this is usually the known standard), while a Specific School Release will usually have the schools that may be contacted or the schools that may not be contacted (usually other high ranked or in-state/regional programs) written into the body of the document.

4. After you have a Release (either in hard copy or attachment form), you are welcome to initiate contact for those schools as directed by the Release. But, the college coaches must now revert back to the recruiting restrictions of your Senior year in high school - One call per week, unlimited e-mails, one Official Visit, etc.

5. If an institution does not grant a request for a Release, the student athlete can receive a review/hearing from a non-athletics department committee to consider the release request.

By and large, these are the parameters of the whole Permission to Contact or Release protocol.

What is almost as important as the rules of a transfer is how to go about handling the transfer situation with your current school and other programs. A few suggestions:

1. The sooner you make a decision about transferring the better. Make a decision - You are either all in or all out; being undecided is not going to be a healthy experience for you or for your team mates.

2. If you decide that you no longer wish to remain at your current institution, then start the mental process to decide where you would like to go - Don't jump schools just to jump; be specific about what you are looking for (academic major, more playing time, different coaching style, closer to home, etc.).

3. As soon as possible schedule a meeting with your Head Coach. Be direct, honest and non-judgemental (remember that coaches have feelings and remember that coaches can get severe criticism from their AD's when players transfer). Make sure your coach understands you have made your decision. Be prepared to list the other schools, conferences or regions you would consider transferring to - Also be prepared to explain exactly why you wish to transfer.

4. Schedule an appointment with your Compliance Director to physically obtain the release. A Blanket Release is usually the easiest for all parties, but be prepared to list all the schools/conferences you would like to contact. Do not expect this Permission to Contact letter to be available immediately; there may be certain departmental protocols which the Compliance Director must follow which will delay the document.

5. Once you have the Release, immediately contact potential programs by e-mail and telephone. Remember that other programs are currently recruiting and may be making scholarship offers right now.

6. When you contact other programs, have a current volleyball resume, college transcript and video available. This information will be wanted by potential schools so they can evaluate your athletic and academic abilities. Also be ready to explain exactly why you wish to leave your current institution.

7. Be prepared to accept an Official or Unofficial Visit offer of an interested school; in terms of recruiting timetables, as a college transfer, you are out of time to take things slowly - be smart, but be quick.

Transfer situations can be tough on all parties involved; players, families, coaches. In the end, things usually work out for the best for everyone - especially when the rules are followed!

Hope this helps anyone pondering a transfer.