New Rule to Help Grad Students

By Staff

Coaching Management, 14.11, November 2006,

In April, few people noticed when the NCAA Division I Board of Directors passed a rule allowing all graduate students with unused athletic eligibility to retain that eligibility even if they attend a school other than their undergraduate institution. But once the rule become more widely known, there was an outcry from football coaches. They feel it allows student-athletes to switch loyalties too easily and may bring a form of free agency to college sports.

But how will this new rule affect volleyball? Because players don’t red shirt as frequently in volleyball as in football, and because volleyball already allows a one-time transfer exemption that can be used by a graduate student, Texas State University-San Marcos Associate Athletic Director Tracy Shoemake predicts that only a small number of volleyball players will take advantage of the new rule.

“I don’t think we’ll see a huge effect,” says Shoemake, a member of the NCAA Division I Women’s Volleyball Committee and San Marcos’s Senior Woman Administrator. “You might see a case here or there, but not a wide sweep of students doing this all of a sudden.”

Shoemake disagrees with the view that the rule equates to free agency and likes its intent, which is to allow student-athletes who still have eligibility remaining more flexibility when looking for graduate schools. “This rule is designed for players who want to pursue a graduate program and the school they’re at doesn’t have it,” says Shoemake. “Maybe they’d like to play for one more year or have their first year of graduate school paid for. This has some huge benefits for students, and I think we’re just trying to be student-athlete friendly and give them more opportunities.”

Not everyone within the volleyball ranks shares Shoemake’s enthusiasm for the change, however. Kelly Andrews, Associate Athletic Director at the University of Toledo and also a member of the Division I Women’s Volleyball Committee, says it could affect competitive equality. “I’m a little concerned that it provides an advantage to schools with more extensive graduate programs,” Andrews says.

Andrews also says that allowing an athlete to take the fruits of three years of coaching and experience to a new program does not seem right.

“By the time a student-athlete completes her undergraduate degree, she has gained significant experience at one institution, and bringing that to another school seems unfair,” she says. “The school would be getting someone at a point where she is at her very best. But if a student-athlete uses her eligibility at one school and does her graduate school there, the school is getting a return on its investment.”

Coaches who agree with Andrews will have a chance to see the rule repealed at the 2007 NCAA Convention. Following the Board of Directors’ approval, there were 46 override requests, enough to put the role to a vote of the full Division I membership. This is only the second NCAA proposal to face an override vote. A measure to increase scholarship limits for volleyball, gymnastics, and women’s track and field and cross country was revoked at the 2006 NCAA convention.

For information on the rule, go to:, click on “Library,” click on “Legislation,” and then click on “Division I Proposals” in the sidebar titled “Other Legislative Databases.” Once there, enter 2005-54 as the Proposal Number.