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Holgorsen: Graduate transfer rule may be on the way out

AP photo Dana Holgorsen

MORGANTOWN — Dana Holgorsen seems to be a fan of the NCAA’s graduate transfer rule, perhaps because in his limited experience with it at West Virginia he’s always been on the receiving end and not the giving side.

He wonders, however, how long the rule will remain in place. As more and more players elect to take advantage of it, the noise from those coaches and schools that have lost players grows. And when noise grows, it can often result in new legislation.

“I think that’s becoming more and more popular. I don’t know if the NCAA is going to address it or not,’’ the West Virginia coach said Tuesday on the Big 12’s annual post-spring practice teleconference. “It’s a topic of discussion that I think the NCAA probably needs to get a handle on.’’

In Holgorsen’s time at WVU, now going on his fourth season, he has taken two players under the rule, which permits a student-athlete who has graduated and has eligibility remaining to go elsewhere without having to sit out a season. Both came to West Virginia last year — running back Charles Sims from Houston and quarterback Clint Trickett from Florida State.

“You get four-year guys that really don’t have any issues at their current school,’’ Holgorsen said. “They graduate, their grades are fine and they can become immediately eligible. I think that’s something that’s interesting to a lot of coaches out there.’’

Especially to those who are getting the transfers without giving up any. Since the move became legal and popular, West Virginia has gained four who came in and contributed significantly — Sims, Trickett, Michigan safety Ryan Mundy in 2007 and Wake Forest receiver Devon Brown in 2011. No one has left the program as a graduate transfer and contributed significantly elsewhere.

That’s probably only a matter of time, however. Transfers in football generally don’t seem as numerous as those in college basketball, but that’s probably only because the difference in roster sizes (13 for basketball, 85 for football) makes basketball transfers more noticeable. But every year there are plenty of transfers of some kind, be it from junior colleges, to or from other Division I schools or to or from lower-division schools.

West Virginia has never taken an inordinate number of transfers or lost a lot. But Holgorsen isn’t opposed to that, either.

“We don’t take a lot of four-year transfers,’’ Holgorsen said, referring to players who leave other schools before graduating. “I think if it’s a situation where a guy wants to come closer to home or something and their talent level is good enough, why not? We got a good one in [running back] Rushel Shell, who was a Pitt kid who just needed to get away from home a little bit. It was still close enough for him to get back home and it made sense and he’s going to be a good player for us.’’

Trickett was one of those rare graduate transfers with two years of eligibility remaining because he enrolled early at Florida State and then graduated in three years.

Most are like Sims in that they have one year remaining and want to use it for a variety of reasons. Some leave because they can get more playing time elsewhere. North Carolina State lost quarterback Russell Wilson to Wisconsin because Wilson was playing pro baseball in the spring and missing practice and both parties simply felt it was better to move on.

Sims left Houston in order to showcase his talents in a “Power Five” conference after spending three seasons (plus a redshirt year) in Conference USA. He chose WVU, in part, because he had played for Holgorsen as a freshman at Houston.

“It worked out great for him,’’ Holgorsen said. “He knew what he was getting with me, so it made sense for him to come. His goal was to be able to play in the Big 12. He came here and he adjusted quickly and he was able to showcase his skills at the highest level possible in I-A football.

“I think he gained a lot of respect from a lot of coaches around the country that hadn’t had a chance to coach against him or hadn’t been able to see him.’’

How many more players like that West Virginia lands — or eventually loses — remains to be seen.

“We haven’t been approached by too many other guys and I don’t know if we will,’’ Holgorsen said. “But I know it worked out pretty well for him.’’

“It is increasing. And I would look for it to continue to increase.’’

Reach Dave Hickman at 304-348-1734 or or follow him at

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