Nicholas Clark played his senior season of football at Coastal Carolina last season and earned a degree in communications a semester early in December 2016.
Yet he’s still having an impact on his former teammates at CCU, and all student-athletes across the country now and in the future, for that matter.
Clark is the lone student-athlete representative on the NCAA Division I Council, which earlier this month changed transfer rules for DI athletes to give students more power and options. His council term goes through the 2018-19 school year.
“You really get to enhance the student-athlete experience on a whole ‘nother level,” Clark said. “I represent all 460,000 student-athletes across the country.”
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College athletes will be allowed to transfer without permission from the university or coach, and the school will be required to enter the athlete's name in a national transfer database within two business days, allowing any coach to contact that athlete. The rule change takes effect Oct. 15.
Previously, athletes had to receive permission from their current school to be contacted by another school before they could receive another scholarship, and coaches often denied the transfers.
Major NCAA conferences can still implement more restrictive transfer rules than the national rule, however.
The council also set a more lenient standard for football players to redshirt, allowing them to play in up to four games and still be eligible for a redshirt season.
Clark is now a graduate assistant for the Georgia Tech Letter Winner’s Club that strives to keep past student-athletes engaged in Yellow Jackets athletics.
He still carries the title of vice chairman of the DI national Student-Athlete Advisory Council (SAAC), which he represented on the DI Council, and is one of two recent graduates on the 19-person NCAA DI Transfer Working Group along with former Missouri-Kansas City basketball player Noah Knight.
“On one level I’m dealing with student-athletes and making sure I’m getting feedback, and on the next level with this council I’m making sure their voice is heard amongst the adults,” said Clark, who has also served on the NCAA Board of Governors Student-Athlete Engagement Committee, which addresses issues that impact athletes at all NCAA levels.
Clark’s working group created the transfer proposal and his council voted on it.
“I believe it creates a safer place for student-athletes to transfer,” Clark said. “Before there was a lot of conflict between player-coach relationships and coaches not allowing their students to leave, and often times students transfer for a variety of reasons.
“Some personal reasons, it may just not be the fit for them. Some do transfer for playing time, but at the end of the day it’s the student-athlete’s experience and you should be able to go wherever you want to go.”
Clark said the current one-year sit-out period for transfers is something the group is analyzing, and it is considering tying academics to the ability to play immediately, such as a minimum grade-point average or students being on pace to graduate on time, which is measured by the Academic Progress Rate (APR). “Some student-athletes are great students and they should be able to play right away,” Clark said. “Those are the type of conversations we’re having right now.”
What does Clark’s former football coach at Coastal, Joe Moglia, and CCU men’s basketball coach Cliff Ellis think of the changes?
“I have always believed that if it’s the right thing for the student-athlete to go to another school, he should be permitted to do that,” Moglia said. “. . . The only real concern I have would be other schools tampering with the players before this decision is reached, which will currently be considered a serious violation. But that would undermine the entire spirit behind this.”
The transfer rule change includes stricter tampering penalties for schools that attempt to recruit players already on scholarship at another university, but Ellis agrees with Moglia in fearing the new rule will potentially lead to more poaching. In the case of basketball, cherry-picking of top mid-major talent by Power Five Conference schools.
“I don’t particularly like it,” Ellis said. “I’m not for anything that helps cherry-picking. I just think it’s starting to become more like a professional league, with the one and done. There is just not enough continuity . . . What you don’t want to see is easy cherry-picking.
“For example if we play ‘X’ school in a Power Five conference, and I’ve got a kid that throws up 25 or 30 in the game and that coach says, ‘Man, I like that kid.’ He can cherry pick. It certainly makes it easier to do that.”
Coaches can always get word to a player that they are interested without directly contacting that player themselves.
Moglia and Ellis both believe the elimination of the one-year waiting period for transfers would increase the temptation and likelihood for programs to attempt to poach players from other schools.
“If he has to sit out he may have to think about it,” Ellis said.
Forward Sam McLaurin transferred to Illinois as a graduate a couple years ago and didn’t have to sit out a year because he was adhering to an NCAA policy as a grad transfer pursuing a master’s degree in a major that wasn’t offered at CCU. “It hurt our basketball team that year because it happened so late,” Ellis said.
Moglia said he philosophically agrees with allowing players to transfer without having to sit out a season, but believes there needs to be guidelines because of the reality of college recruiting and noted, “Transfer eligibility has not yet been determined so that clearly requires more thought.”
Golf adds transfer
Wes Artac, a graduate transfer from Texas Tech, has signed with the Coastal men’s golf team for the 2018-19 season.
Artac played three seasons with the Red Raiders, redshirting his junior season (2016-17) and graduating in May with a degree in finance.
He was Tech’s top finisher at both the 2016 Big 12 Championship and 2015 NCAA Lubbock Regional, was named to the 2015 Big 12 Championship All-Tournament team and earned Academic All-Big 12 honors twice.
The Kingwood, Texas, native played in 20 events in his three years at Tech and averaged 74.16 strokes over 62 career rounds. Among his four top 20 finishes were a pair of top-12s in the Big 12 Championship. He also qualified for 2016 U.S. Amateur and is coming off a seventh-place finish at the 2018 Texas Amateur where he carded rounds of 70, 72, 75 and 74.
“This is a big pickup for us,” CCU coach Jim Garren said. “. . . Wes has played at the highest level of collegiate golf and adding someone with his experience is huge, not only for our young guys but our returners as well.”
The CCU football program has been picking up verbal commitments from high school players in recent weeks, with at least six players committing to play for CCU beginning in 2019.
According to posts on their Twitter accounts, in-state players who have committed to CCU include Indian Land High safety Dorian Williams (6-2, 195), all-purpose back Joe Ervin of South Pointe High in Rock Hill, and Dutch Fork High offensive tackle Kameren Stewart, who helped the Silver Foxes win two Class 5A state championships.
Out-of-state players who have committed to CCU include Newton-Conover High (N.C.) wide receiver and cornerback Myles Baker, Brevard (N.C.) High wide receiver and cornerback Luke Ellenberger, and Richmond Hill (Ga.) High running back and slotback Aaron Bedgood.