Athletes in all Big Sky Conference sports will now be able to transfer to another league school and be immediately eligible to play.
That's the result of the conference's Presidents' Council rescinding the intraconference transfer policy by a unanimous vote Monday. That policy had required athletes to sit out a season if they transferred within the league, unless they received a waiver allowing them to play or were a graduate transfer.
The elimination of the league's policy comes after the NCAA approved a one-time transfer rule this spring for athletes in football, men's basketball, women's basketball, baseball and hockey. NCAA athletes in all other sports have been able to transfer once and be immediately eligible to play without having to sit out a season.
Although the NCAA changed its rule, conference policies on intraconference transfers still supersede the NCAA rules as leagues can decide to be more restrictive than what the NCAA allows. The ACC, AAC, Big 12, MAC and Pac-12 have already eliminated their intranconference transfer policy.
“As our membership reviewed our policy as well as the national landscape regarding the issue of student-athletes being able to transfer to another school within the same league and compete immediately, we recognized that this would be the right step for our conference to take,” Big Sky Commissioner Tom Wistrcill said in a news release.
“Allowing student-athletes this flexibility is in their best interests, and I appreciate the thoughtful discussion all of our constituents had that helped lead us to this outcome.”
The Big Sky Student-Athlete Advisory Committee, Faculty Athletic Representatives, Athletic Directors and Senior Woman Administrators had recommended this action.
“We could not be more excited as a SAAC group that the Big Sky Presidents’ Council eliminated the intraconference transfer rule,” said Justice Littrell, a graduating Northern Colorado football player, president of the conference’s SAAC for the last two years and current co-vice chair for the NCAA’s Division I SAAC.
“We advocated for this change to ensure that athletes in the Big Sky can transfer and compete, while also providing academic freedom and peace of mind when going through an already stressful situation in transferring. We are supportive of opening up every avenue possible for our peers to succeed, and this was a step in the right direction for all of us.”
The NCAA rule allowing a one-time transfer exception means an athlete who transfers and plays right away won't be able to have immediate eligibility as a grad transfer later in their career.
The Big Sky still has a "Serious Misconduct Rule" it implemented in the 2019-20 school year. That rule bans athletes with violent convictions from receiving athletic-related financial aid from Big Sky schools.
Frank Gogola covers Griz football and prep sports for the Missoulian. Follow him on Twitter @FrankGogola or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.