Players' ability to transfer within the Big Ten became a big issue with the case of former Wisconsin basketball player Jarrod Uthoff this spring.
The league recently adopted a rule that says any player who transfers from one Big Ten team to another would not only have to sit out a year under NCAA restrictions, but that he or she would also lose a season of eligibility.
But the conference is strongly leaning toward lifting all restrictions for Penn State players who want to leave in the wake of today's NCAA sanctions announcement. As we blogged earlier today, the NCAA is allowing all current Penn State players and incoming freshmen to basically transfer for free, even possibly allowing their destination schools to go over scholarship limits to take them in. But that still does not address the Big Ten rule.
The league has not officially waived the rule for Penn State players, but commissioner Jim Delany said the presidents and chancellors discussed that issue on Sunday and are leaning heavily toward doing so.
"Their first thought on it is that they're students first and athletes second," Delany said. "The conference has some limitations in terms of internal transfers, but the students in this situation ... their interests need to be prioritized. We'll take a very close look at the NCAA declaration about freedom to transfer, and I think our first inclination is to allow those students to have the most freedom and flexibility if they choose to transfer. At first blush, our orientation would be to support as much freedom as possible for those students."
Sally Mason, who chairs the league's council of presidents and chancellors, added that, "the presidents felt that this was an exceptional situation that required some exceptional thinking in terms of how we would deal with this particular aspect of transfer and eligibility."
It's the right thing to do, of course. And it will only make things potentially wilder as Penn State players mull their options. Silas Redd starting at running back for Ohio State this season? Gerald Hodges playing linebacker at Nebraska? Jordan Hill on Wisconsin's defensive line? All probably far-fetched, but all could be entirely possible.