Alabama-Huntsville and the NCAA’s transfer-rule exemption

Over the years, we’ve become all-too-familiar with NCAA bylaw, for some unfortunate reasons.

That line in the NCAA’s Division I manual is better known as the Discontinued/Nonsponsored Sport Exception, and it comes into play when a school drops a sport. So it has come up a few times in the last decade — Wayne State in 2008, Findlay in 2004 and Fairfield and Iona in 2003.

The provision allows for players to avoid having to sit out a season when transferring from a school that drops its program. But what about when a school announces it will drop its program then reverses course, as Alabama-Huntsville has done?

The language of the rule says that once a school publicly announces that it’s canceling a program’s varsity status, players have the right to play at another school in the next season, as long as they make the move before the start of the next academic year. Alabama-Huntsville announced in October that this season would be the last for the program at the varsity level, which started the clock for the current players to find another team for next season.

Even when that decision changed and UAH gave coach Chris Luongo the green light to resume scheduling for next season as a varsity program, the NCAA confirmed that Chargers players still have the opportunity to go elsewhere for 2012-13 without a transfer penalty.

Luongo said three players committed to other schools in the time that the Chargers program appeared to be folding.

“They were recruited, which we had encouraged and facilitated, they committed to those programs and if we were in the same position, we would expect the young men to honor their commitment,” Luongo said in an email. “We were happy when the young men found a home and we wish them the very best.

Goaltender Clarke Saunders is transferring to North Dakota, while forward Mac Roy is headed to Robert Morris and defenseman Nickolas Gatt will move to Michigan State. All are sophomores this season, meaning they’ll have two years of eligibility remaining starting next season.

Will there be others, since the door is still open? Luongo said he hasn’t felt the need to put on any recruiting pitch to players already in the program.

“They are well aware of what we have to offer and I am confident that they love playing hockey and going to school at the University of Alabama in Huntsville,” Luongo said.