Transfers: Student-athletes see struggles, benefits

Transferring from one school to another midway through college can be exasperating. Add to the process the complications of being a full-time student-athlete, and individuals have an entirely new challenge on their hands.

Butler student-athletes who have transferred from other schools can attest to this.

Junior baseball first baseman Jimmy Risi referred to his transfer process as “an emotional time,” describing his transition from one school to another in the span of 48 hours. Despite deciding early on that she would be at Butler, sophomore women’s basketball player Daress McClung said the process can be “very stressful,” especially if one does not know what school to attend.

While not everyone has to go through such a quick or tolling jump, the struggle is evident for both incoming and outgoing students.

There are a few key reasons that a transferring student-athlete would run into problems changing institutions.

Most of these—such as low grade point averages and missing credits—are on a student’s own account.

Sometimes, there are more challenging issues.

In order for Butler to be able to speak with a potential transfer student, their previous institution has to grant permission to contact.

The following release of the athlete can make things even more complicated.

“At Butler, we feel like we want to do what’s in the best interest of our students,” Associate Athletic Director Beth Goetz said. “If that means their continued participation and attendance at Butler, that’s great. If it is someplace else, then we are typically supportive of that.

“We have not denied anyone’s permission to contact at all.”

Sometimes, an institution will not release a student, which often leads to an array of problems, appeals and hearings.

Regular NCAA rules must also be considered to determine if a student can start competing immediately, has to sit a year or, in the worst case scenario, sit two years.

McClung, for example, would have had to sit out two years if she had transferred from Cincinnati to another Big East school.

“They have different rules that make it nearly impossible for kids to transfer,” McClung said.

The basic rule is that athletes must sit a year unless they meet an exception.

In-league transfers are more complicated, and sometimes schools will refuse to release an athlete simply because they do not want students following them.

Even rivalries can come into play. Recently, a transfer from Ohio was almost not released because he intended to go to Illinois, a rival institution.

Sophomore soccer player Jamie Vollmer was fortunate enough that he did not have to sit a season after transferring from Butler to Indiana.

He transferred from Butler after his first year, asking for permission to contact four schools. He was allowed to speak with three, with the exception being North Carolina State.

N.C. State is where former Butler men’s soccer coach Kelly Findley is currently employed.

“There was just a lot of uncertainty and unanswered questions,” Vollmer said. “I just decided that I would look around. My transfer was athletics-based, but I also wanted to do physical therapy (a program which Butler does not offer). I decided I could be more successful transferring to IU.”

Vollmer, who plays under scholarship at Indiana, said Butler told him they did not want the whole team jumping to N.C. State after Findley left.

Matt Hedges, a former teammate of Vollmer, also transferred the year Findley left.

Hedges jumped to North Carolina and now plays for Major League Soccer team FC Dallas.

“I was allowed to appeal, but I just thought better of it and didn’t want to deal with it,” Vollmer said. “Besides that, everything went smoothly.”

Goetz said the athletics department’s general philosophy is to help transferring athletes in all cases.

“I don’t even need to know why you want to transfer, but we may ask because we want to continue to get better,” Goetz said.

For the most part, incoming Butler transfers said the same thing: Coaches are generally cooperative but wish their athletes would not leave.

Some students leave their schools because of academics, some leave for exposure and some leave to be back home.

However, they all go through the same process to get to their new institution.

“I loved my school and my friends and everything like that,” McClung said, “and I was playing. But Butler really cares about its players. They want me to get a better education.  I just felt it would be better to transfer.

“This is the best decision I think I’ve made as a whole, and I’ve made some pretty big decisions.”


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