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To slow flow of grad transfers, NCAA could constrain schools

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Football and basketball coaches may be less likely to add graduate transfers to their teams under a change being considered by the NCAA.

The NCAA Division I Council is expected to vote by Friday on an amendment that would require a grad transfer to count against a team’s scholarship total for two years, no matter how much eligibility the player has left when they arrive. An exception would be made for athletes who complete graduate degree requirements before the start of the second year.

The proposal targets what critics say is virtual free agency in big-time college athletics. Current rules allow athletes who have earned an undergraduate degree to transfer to another school without sitting out a season, as is usually required by the NCAA of undergraduates.

Grad transfers can be a quick fix for coaches trying to plug holes on a roster and the freedom has been a boon to athletes looking for more playing time. But some administrators say the rule has drifted away from its original intent and graduate transfers are rarely completing those advanced degrees.

“The so-called graduate degree is really not the aspiration,” Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby said. “The aspiration is to be featured, and usually featured at a higher level.”

Changing the rule could slow the flow of grad transfers by making coaches more reluctant to take on players with only with one year of eligibility remaining.

“Roster management is such a critical component of every collegiate coach and then to say that you’re going to burn a scholarship for another year afterwards, where an individual is not even playing, that’s obviously a pretty high price,” said Todd Berry, the executive director of the American Football Coaches Association.

High-profile quarterbacks, such as former Alabama star Jalen Hurts who is now at Oklahoma, often garner headlines when they transfer as grad students. Still, the majority of football players taking this route are far less accomplished.

Stanford coach David Shaw, whose program routinely operates below the major-college maximum of 85 scholarship players, said he would not hesitate to bring in a star-level player as a grad transfer even if it meant having an vacant scholarship the next season. But teams could be less inclined to take that hit with a lesser player.

“I have a tough time justifying putting constraints on someone who would accept a grad transfer because we’re talking about some of the best class of young people,” Shaw said. “These guys have graduated. They have done what they needed to do.”

In men’s basketball, where the scholarship limit is 13 per team, graduate transfers have become even more prevalent.

Bringing in graduate transfers can help a coach quickly rebuild. Texas Tech reached the NCAA Tournament championship game with graduate transfers Matt Mooney and Tariq Owens playing key roles. Often mid-major conference basketball coaches watch their best players jump to more prominent conferences through grad transfers.

The proposed amendment comes during a time of sweeping reform of NCAA transfer rules.

Athletes are no longer required to seek permission from their current school to be contacted by other schools when they decide to transfer. They can simply notify their schools of intent to transfer and have their names placed in an NCAA database. Once listed in the so-called transfer portal an athlete can be recruited by any school.

The NCAA also tweaked its waiver policy to give more undergraduates a chance to become immediately eligible to compete after transferring. Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields and Miami quarterback Tate Martell are among those who have received a waiver to play in 2019 after transferring following the 2018 season.

The latest proposal was crafted by the Division I Council’s transfer working group, which also came up with the notification model. All 32 Division I conferences are represented on the council.

Bowlsby, who is not on the council, said a majority of the 10 athletic directors in the Big 12 were against the proposal. Mid-American Conference Commissioner Jon Steinbrecher, who represents the MAC on the council and was part of the working group, said his league is for it.

Steinbrecher also said the proposal had strong support coming out of the working group, which had representation from throughout Division I.

“If you don’t like the idea of free-flowing grad transfers, which is essentially what we have right now,” Steinbrecher said, “I’m not sure why you would be opposed to what’s being proposed.”

Bubbles brewing with season on horizon

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INDIANAPOLIS — With the coronavirus pandemic already forcing changes for college basketball, a bubble may be brewing in Indianapolis.

Indiana Sports Corp. released a 16-page proposal Friday that calls for turning the city convention center’s exhibition halls and meeting rooms into basketball courts and locker rooms. There would be expansive safety measures and daily COVID-19 testing.

The all-inclusive price starts at $90,000 per team and would cover 20 hotel rooms per traveling party, testing, daily food vouchers ranging from $30-$50 and the cost of game officials. Sports Corp. President Ryan Vaughn said the price depends on what offerings teams or leagues choose.

“The interest has been high,” Vaughn said. “I think as conferences figure out what conference and non-conference schedules are going to look like, we’re we’re a very good option for folks. I would tell you we’ve had conversations with the power six conferences, mid-majors, it’s really kind of all over the Division I spectrum.”

Small wonder: The NCAA this week announced teams could start ramping up workouts Monday, with preseason practices set to begin Oct. 14. Season openers, however, were pushed back to Nov. 25 amid wide-ranging uncertainty about campus safety and team travel in the pandemic.

There is already scrambling going on and some of the marquee early-season tournaments have already been impacted.

The Maui Invitational will be moved from Hawaii to Asheville, North Carolina, with dates still to be determined and organizers clear that everyone involved “will be in a bubble environment that limits their movement and interaction outside the venue.” The Batttle 4 Atlantis has been canceled. The Cancun Challenge will be held in Melbourne, Florida, not Mexico.

More changes almost certainly will be coming, including what to do with the ACC-Big Ten Challenge.

“I think we’re past the guesswork on whether we play 20 conference games or more than that,” Purdue coach Matt Painter said Friday. “We’re trying to get everybody set like in terms of MTEs (multi-team events), figuring out when to play the ACC-Big Ten challenge.”

Painter, who was part of the NCAA committee that recommended how to start the season, noted part of the uncertainty stems from differing protocols imposed by campus, city and state officials.

In Indianapolis, Vaughn believes the convention center, nearby hotels, restaurants and downtown businesses, many within walking distance of the venue, could safely accommodate up to 24 teams. The 745,000-square foot facility would feature six basketball courts and two competition courts.

Anyone entering the convention center would undergo saliva-based rapid response testing, which would be sent to a third-party lab for results. Others venues could be added, too, potentially with more fans, if the case numbers decline.

If there is a taker, the event also could serve as a dry run for the 2021 Final Four, also slated for Indy.

“It’s not going to hurt,” Vaughn said. “I can tell you all the planning we’re doing right now is the same for a Final Four that’s been scheduled here for any other year. But it would be nice to have this experience under our belt to see if it can be done.”

Maui Invitational moving to North Carolina during pandemic

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ASHEVILLE, N.C. — The Maui Invitational is moving to the mainland during the coronavirus pandemic.

One of the premier preseason tournaments on the college basketball schedule, the Maui Invitational will be played at the Harrah’s Cherokee Center in downtown Asheville, North Carolina.

Dates for the tournament announced Friday have yet to be finalized. The NCAA announced Wednesday that the college basketball season will begin Nov. 25.

This year’s Maui Invitational field includes Alabama, Davidson, Indiana, North Carolina, Providence, Stanford, Texas and UNLV.

All teams, staff, officials, and personnel will be in a bubble environment that limits their movement and interaction outside the venue.

Burton eligible at Texas Tech after 2 seasons at Wichita State

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LUBBOCK, Texas — Junior guard Jamarius Burton has been granted a waiver from the NCAA that makes him eligible to play this season for Texas Tech after starting 52 games the past two seasons for Wichita State.

Texas Tech coach Chris Beard announced the waiver Thursday, which came five months after Burton signed with the Big 12 team.

Burton has two seasons of eligibility remaining, as well as a redshirt season he could utilize. He averaged 10.3 points and 3.4 assists per game as a sophomore at Wichita State, where he played 67 games overall.

Burton is from Charlotte. He helped lead Independence High School to a 31-1 record and the North Carolina Class 4A state championship as a senior there.

NCAA season set to open day before Thanksgiving

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The NCAA men’s and women’s basketball season will begin on Nov. 25, the day before Thanksgiving.

The Division I Council voted Wednesday to push the start date back from the originally scheduled Nov. 10 as one of several precautions against the spread of coronavirus.

The later start date coincides with the decision most schools made to send students home from Thanksgiving until January out of concern about a potential late-fall and early-winter flareup of COVID-19. Closed campuses could serve as a quasi bubble for players and provide a window for non-conference games.

The maximum number of regular-season games has been reduced from 31 to 27. The minimum number of games for consideration for the NCAA Tournament was cut from 25 to 13.

Teams can start preseason practices Oct. 14 but will be allowed to work out 12 hours per week beginning Monday.

No scrimmages against other teams or exhibitions are allowed.

In other action, the council voted to extend the recruiting dead period for all sports through Dec. 31. In-person recruiting is not allowed during a dead period, though phone calls and other correspondence are allowed.

The men’s and women’s basketball oversight committees had jointly recommended a start date of Nov. 21, which would have allowed for games to be played on the weekend before Thanksgiving. The council opted not to do that to avoid a conflict with regular-season football games.

The council is scheduled to meet again Oct. 13-14 and could delay the start date and change other pieces of the basketball framework if circumstances surrounding the virus warrant.

UConn’s Tyrese Martin granted waiver to play this season

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STORRS, Conn. — UConn swingman Tyrese Martin, who transferred from Rhode Island in April, has been granted a waiver that will allow him to play for the Huskies this season.

The 6-foot-6 junior averaged 12.8 points and 7.1 rebounds and started every game last season for URI, where he was recruited by current UConn coach Dan Hurley.

NCAA rules require undergraduate transfers to sit out a season, but the organization has been more lenient in granting waivers during the pandemic.

Martin, 21, is expected to compete for playing time at UConn on the wing as both a guard and small forward.