NCAA agrees to allow college athletes to transfer without losing a year of eligibility following lawsuit

Colorado St Colorado Football
David Zalubowski/AP
Colorado safety Shilo Sanders, left, runs back an interception for a touchdown as Colorado State wide receiver Tory Horton (14) pursues in the first half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Sept. 16, 2023, in Boulder, Colo.

Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser, other state attorneys general, and the U.S. The Justice Department said they've scored a major win in the recent NCAA agreement in the student-athlete transfer battle.

The proposed agreement makes a preliminary injunction filed in U.S. District Court in the Northern District of West Virginia to allow NCAA Division I transfer between schools without restrictions permanent. Judge Preston Bailey still has to approve the agreement.

“Student-athletes deserve to be treated fairly and not sidelined because of a coaching change or other circumstances beyond their control. Freedom to pursue opportunities is an American ideal and a core tenet of the antitrust laws,” Weiser said in a written statement. “The NCAA’s effort to unjustifiably undermine that principle for students looking to transfer will end as a result of this settlement.”

The recent agreement also requires Division I schools to grant a year of eligibility to those deemed ineligible under the transfer eligibility rule since the 2019-20 academic year. It prevents retaliation from the NCAA against member institutions and athletes who challenge the rule or support those who do. It also provides safeguards in student rights’ to compete during legal proceedings without fear of punitive actions.

The NCAA is also prohibited from undermining or circumventing its provisions through future actions, rules, or policies. The Northern District Court of West Virginia will maintain jurisdiction to enforce its terms and resolve any disputes that may arise. 

Six schools play Division I sports as full or associate members in their respective conferences in the state: the University of Colorado Boulder, Colorado State University, the U.S. Air Force Academy, the University of Denver, and the University of Northern Colorado. Colorado College competed in Division I men’s ice hockey and Division III in other sports.

Colorado joined the U.S. Department of Justice, the District of Columbia, and nine other states in suing the NCAA over its transfer policy in December 2023. Those states include Ohio, West Virginia, Illinois, Minnesota, Mississippi, New York, North Carolina, Tennessee and Virginia.

The agreement is the latest blow to the NCAA and its policies regarding the transfers and paying student-athletes. The NCAA and Division I’s Power 5 Conferences reached a settlement that allows schools to directly pay former and current student-athletes $2.7 billion in damages over the past 10 years. CU-Boulder is the only Power 5 school in the state.