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Finally.

On Thursday, the NCAA did what should have happened long ago. It granted transferring athletes one-time, immediate eligibility.

The old rules didn’t make any sense. How could college sports justify coaches jumping from job to job and not give the athletes the same freedom?

Well, unfortunately, college sports are full of contradictions. The transfer rule was simply the most egregious.

Of course, some are going to scream about the lack of loyalty from the athletes. But that complaint is only reasonable if the coaches and administrators have to show the same amount.

And they don’t.

Everybody is looking for the bigger, better deal. Coaches cash in after a big season. Looking at you, Porter Moser.

Nothing wrong with that. It’s been part of the sports business forever.

It simply wasn’t fair that the athletes couldn’t move as well.

Now, they can. Without having to rely on the whims of some arbitrary, making-up-the-rules-as-it-goes-along committee.

I’m still trying to figure out why Illinois tight end Luke Ford was denied immediately eligibility after his transfer from Georgia. At the same time, former Georgia quarterback Justin Fields was allowed to play right away at Ohio State.

Inconsistent at the least.

Shady might be a better term.

Nothing against Fields, a great player who starred for the Buckeyes and is about to become a rich young man.

But Ford should have been allowed to play right away at Illinois. The new system means athletes in his situation won’t have to leave it up to chance.

Voice of approvalIllinois outside linebacker Isaiah Gay enters his fifth year in the program. He stuck it out and should likely play a key role in the 2021 season under first-year coach Bret Bielema.

“I’m dedicated to Coach B and his staff,” Gay said.

Though it won’t impact him personally, Gay likes the decision.

“I think for anybody in college football, they should do what’s best for them,” Gay said Thursday afternoon. “If they wanted to go see how things are run at another program, you do what you’ve got to do.”

Before the change, players knew once they originally picked a school they had to stay or face losing a year.

That will no longer be the case.

Illinois safety Prather Hudson knows all about transferring.

The super senior spent five seasons at Georgia before moving north to Champaign.

A special teams standout with the Bulldogs, Hudson is getting more time at Illinois with the defense.

Hudson didn’t need the one-time transfer rule in order to join the Illini. He already earned his undergraduate degree at Georgia, allowing him to switch schools without penalty.

He is a fan of the new setup.

“A lot of times people get in certain situations they didn’t want to be in,” Hudson said. “I think it’s a good change of pace to give guys the freedom and have more opportunities, when they see fit, at other places.”

Like me, Hudson didn’t think the old system was fair.

“You see coaches bounce around all the time and players can’t do it,” Hudson said. “I can see the animosity that the players have from that perspective. You will see a lot of guys happier in the long run.”

Getting readyBielema is back in college after three seasons in the NFL.

He expected the eligibility change and prepared for it.

“I think it was just a formality,” Bielema said. “Most coaches have been planning for this.”

He favors the move.

“I think anything that benefits the student-athlete is a step in the right direction,” Bielema said.

But ...

“My only concern is a player can literally get done with his last practice at a university within this conference, a Big Ten Conference opponent, have an exit meeting with his coach, talk about coming back in the fall and then two weeks later decide to have a one-time transfer and you could be facing him in your opening game,”Bielema said. “I think inner-conference transfers is very concerning for the health of our game. But that’s probably second to the overall health and well-being of our student-athletes.”

Bielema has already added transfers to his roster. The changes will make it easier going forward.

For a new coach trying to rebuild a program that hasn’t had a winning season since 2011, it gives him a way to improve beyond traditional recruiting.

The downside for coaches, which they realize, is they will need to constantly be aware of what is going on in-house.

Look for an even more open line of communication between coaches and players. You don’t want to be the last one to know one of your stars is unhappy and looking around. Or plan to leave.

Which he can now do free of charge.

Bob Asmussen can be reached at 217-393-8248 or by email at asmussen@news-gazette.com.

College Football Reporter/Columnist

Bob Asmussen is a college football reporter and columnist for The News-Gazette. His email is asmussen@news-gazette.com, and you can follow him on Twitter (@BobAsmussen).

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