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One-time transfer waiver could help Arizona basketball and football

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Arizona Wildcats Practice Before Texas Southern In 2nd Round Photo by Paul Dye/J and L Photography/Getty Images

The NCAA has made some unprecedented moves in the past month, first halting its premier sporting event before cancelling all sports altogether for the rest of the academic year, then granting an extra year of eligibility for spring sports athletes to make up for their lost season.

But before those coronavirus-prompted actions, college athletics’ governing body was starting to look into a major change in its transfer rules. And now it appears that topic is back on the front burner.

According to Kendall Rogers of D1Baseball.com, the NCAA’s Division I council is planning to meet April 24 to discuss the implementation of a one-time transfer waiver. Rogers also reported the council would vote on the measure on May 20, with the expectation that it would pass and apply immediately.

Currently, Division I athletes in almost every NCAA sport have to sit out a year unless they had graduated from their first school or they were given an exemption waiver, usually due to some kind of hardship. Under the change every athlete would be able to transfer once without penalty.

Such a change would completely alter the way transfers are recruited, particularly in a sport like men’s and women’s basketball where there are only 13 and 15 scholarship spots for each team, respectively. Taking on a transfer who has to sit out a year effectively shortens your roster, something the Arizona Wildcats have dealt with.

The 2019-20 season saw the UA men’s team unable to use the services of Nevada transfer Jordan Brown—though Jemarl Baker Jr. received a waiver after transferring from Kentucky— while the Wildcat women’s team had to keep Oklahoma transfer Shaina Pellington on the bench for the same reason. (And one year, Aari McDonald, Dominique McBryde and Tee Tee Starks all had to sit out because of NCAA transfer rules.)

If the one-time transfer passes it would mean James Akinjo, who came to the UA from Georgetown midway through last season, would be eligible in the fall rather than having to sit out the first semester. It also means Arizona’s pursuit of transfers this offseason wouldn’t have to focus on graduate students, such as when it landed a commitment from former Seattle guard Terrell Brown.

The same goes for football, where coach Kevin Sumlin has a few scholarships available and would be able pursue players leaving other programs for a better playing opportunity.

Meanwhile, women’s basketball head coach Adia Barnes is anxiously awaiting to see if the one-time transfer waiver will be implemented as well. If it does, she could pursue all transfers to bolster the 2020-21 frontcourt instead of just those of the graduate variety.

The Wildcats already landed Indiana transfer Bendu Yeaney, but right now the expectation is that junior guard will have to sit out the 2020-21 season.