Back in action: Agreement allows several transfer athletes to play

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CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The NCAA and a coalition of states suing the organization have announced a proposed litigation settlement that would allow student-athletes to immediately return to eligibility regardless of the number of transfers they make and would provide an additional year of eligibility for some who were out.

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

Thursday's settlement came a month after the NCAA's Division I Council passed a fast-track bill, ratified by the Division I Board of Governors, to comply with Bailey's injunction.

Under the agreement, the NCAA would be required to grant an additional year of eligibility to Division I athletes who were previously deemed ineligible under the transfer eligibility rule since the 2019-2020 academic year.

“We have leveled the playing field for college athletes so they have greater control over their destiny,” Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost said in a statement. “This long-term change is exactly what we wanted to achieve.”

In a statement, the NCAA said the agreement was “just one of many ways the association is providing more benefits to student-athletes, increasing flexibility and implementing effective reforms.”

Athletes would still need to meet academic requirements to maintain eligibility. Sport-specific transfer windows remain in place, requiring undergraduate athletes to enter their names into the portal at specific times to be immediately eligible for a new school. Graduate students can already transfer multiple times and enter the portal outside of transfer windows while maintaining immediate eligibility.

The agreement would prevent the NCAA from retaliating against member institutions and athletes who challenge or support the rule, including preserving the right of student-athletes to compete during legal proceedings without fear of punishment from the NCAA.

In addition, the agreement would prohibit the NCAA from undermining or circumventing its rules through future actions that could jeopardize the rights and freedoms of athletes.

The federal court in the Northern District of West Virginia would retain jurisdiction to enforce the terms and resolve any disputes under the agreement. The lawsuit is scheduled to be tried before a jury next year.

One of the players highlighted in the lawsuit was West Virginia's RaeQuan Battle, who cited mental health issues as the reason for transferring to West Virginia after previously playing for Washington and Montana State.

Battle, the first person from the Tulalip Reservation in Washington state to play Division I basketball, said he had lost “countless people” to drugs, alcohol and Covid-19 over the years and was confident West Virginia had the right support system to help him thrive 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 a temporary restraining order in December allowed him to play the rest of the schedule.

Battle recently participated in workouts ahead of next month's NBA Draft.

“The NCAA must consider the underlying issues affecting student-athletes in every decision it makes,” West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey said in a statement. “Often, real issues are at stake.”

The U.S. Department of Justice, which joined the lawsuit in January, was involved in the settlement. In addition to Ohio, Colorado, Illinois, Minnesota, Mississippi, New York, North Carolina, Tennessee, Virginia, West Virginia and the District of Columbia also signed an agreement.