A D-1 undergraduate student-athlete who transfers to another D-1 program has to sit out a year. We all know that’s the case, right?
Not so fast, my friends. It turns out there’s an obscure exception to the rule, as John Infante explains:
Bylaw 18.104.22.168.8, the Return to Original Institution Without Participation or With Minimal Participation Exception says that a student-athlete can play immediately after a transfer if:
The student transfers to a second four-year collegiate institution, does not compete at the second institution and does not engage in other countable athletically related activities in the involved sport at the second institution beyond a 14-consecutive-day period and returns to the original institution. The 14-consecutive-day period begins with the date on which the student-athlete first engages in any countable athletically related activity (see Bylaw 17.02.1). A student may use this exception even if he or she has an unfulfilled residence requirement at the institution from which he or she is transferring.
This exception is available to athletes in any sport. Unlike the one-time transfer exception, an athlete can use it no matter how many times they have transfer in the past. And the final sentence explains how it does not matter that Kiel did not serve his year in residence at Cincinnati. And any summer conditioning Kiel has participated in at Cincinnati is considered voluntary athletically related activity, not countable. So he has not even triggered the 14-day grace period to return to Notre Dame.
Now, I don’t expect Gunner Kiel to return to Notre Dame, even in the wake of Golson’s departure. But he could and if he did, he could play immediately. There’s nothing Tommy Tuberville could do about that.
But there is one thing Tuberville could do if the situation arose.
Kiel also does not technically need a release from Cincinnati to play for Notre Dame next year. If Cincinnati refuses to grant Kiel permission to contact Notre Dame about returning, it only means that Notre Dame cannot give Kiel a scholarship for one academic year or encourage the transfer. But if Kiel were to show up at Notre Dame to start the season, he would be eligible to play right away. [Emphasis added.]
So Brian Kelly wouldn’t suffer under the circumstances, but Kiel would. No doubt the NCAA, which likes to remind us constantly how much it’s for the student-athlete, would just chalk that up as a character-building exercise. The system works!