NCAA, states reach agreement in lawsuit to permanently allow multiple-transfer athletes to compete

May 30, 2024 – The NCAA and a coalition of states suing the organization announced a proposed settlement of a lawsuit Thursday that would allow athletes to be immediately eligible to play no matter how many times they transfer and offer some who were sidelined an extra year of eligibility.

Under the agreement, a preliminary injunction issued by a federal judge in West Virginia allowing multiple-transfer athletes to compete would be made permanent. Judge John Preston Bailey would still have to sign off on the pact.

Thursday’s agreement comes a month after the NCAA Division I Council fast-tracked legislation that was ratified by the Division I Board to fall in line with Bailey’s preliminary injunction.

Under the agreement, the NCAA would be required to grant an additional year of eligibility to Division I athletes previously deemed ineligible under the transfer eligibility rule since the 2019-20 academic year.

“We’ve leveled the playing field for college athletes to allow them to better control their destinies,” Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost said in a statement. “This long-term change is exactly what we set out to accomplish.”

In a statement, the NCAA said the agreement “is just one of the many ways the Association is delivering more benefits to student-athletes, increasing flexibility and making impactful reforms.”

Athletes would still be required to meet academic requirements to maintain eligibility. Transfer windows, which are sport-specific, remain in place and require undergraduate athletes to enter their names into the portal at certain times to be immediately eligible at a new school. Graduate students can already transfer multiple times and enter the portal outside the windows while maintaining immediate eligibility.

The agreement would prevent the NCAA from retaliating against member institutions and athletes who challenge the rule or support those who do. This includes safeguarding student athletes’ rights to compete during legal proceedings without fear of punishment from the NCAA.

In addition, the NCAA would be barred from undermining or circumventing its provisions through future actions that could threaten athletes’ rights and freedoms, according to the agreement.

The federal court in West Virginia’s northern district would maintain jurisdiction to enforce its terms and resolve any disputes that may come up, according to the agreement. The lawsuit had been scheduled for a jury trial next year.

One of the players highlighted in the lawsuit was West Virginia’s RaeQuan Battle, who had cited mental health issues in his decision to transfer to West Virginia after previously playing at Washington and Montana State.

Battle, the first person from the Tulalip Reservation in Washington state to play Division I basketball, had said he has lost “countless people” to drugs, alcohol and COVID-19 over the years and believed West Virginia had the proper support system to help him flourish personally and academically.

After the NCAA denied his request to play immediately at West Virginia, Battle missed the first month of the 2023-24 season before the December court injunction allowed him to play the remainder of the schedule.

Battle recently participated in workouts ahead of next month’s NBA draft.

“The NCAA needs to recognize underlying issues that affect student-athletes in every decision,” West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey said in a statement. “Real life issues often are at stake.”

The U.S. Department of Justice, which joined the lawsuit in January, was involved in the settlement. Besides Ohio, other states securing the agreement were Colorado, Illinois, Minnesota, Mississippi, New York, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia and the District of Columbia.

By John Raby, Associated Press
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