NewsOK: Oklahoma City News, Sports, Weather & Entertainment

NCAA rule in Khari Harding situation needed to change ... but not like this

The Khari Harding situation is picking up steam around the country.

I wrote about it earlier this week — you can read that column here — but there are lots of other folks who are picking up the story and the fact that the Edmond Santa Fe product who transferred from Auburn to Tulsa in order to be closer to his ailing father will be a test case for the NCAA’s new hardship waiver rule.

In Harding’s case, the NCAA changed the effective date of the rule change.

The situation is an outrage.

But the rule change?

It isn’t all bad. Something needed to be done about hardship waivers.

In recent years, it has become common for any athlete who transfers to appeal to the NCAA for a hardship waiver. Some of them have legitimate reasons. They want to be closer to a sick family member, for example. But many of them are appealing without a true hardship.

Getting kicked off your team because you had three run-ins with the police doesn’t fall under the definition of hardship, at least not by NCAA standards.

And yet, pretty much every transfer appeals to the NCAA. That has created an untenable situation. In Division-I men’s basketball alone last year, there were upwards of 500 appeals. That’s one division of one sport. The NCAA oversees dozens of sports playing in multiple divisions. You can only imagine the amount of paperwork and research that must be done.

(Remember that the next time a transfer has a long wait on a hardship appeal.)

More from NewsOK

So, change had to come to the hardship waiver rules — and the NCAA decided to go hard core.

No more hardship waivers.

No exceptions.

Basically, if a player transfers for any reason in sports without open transfer rules, he or she must sit out the first year at the new school. Now, the rule change does allow for transfers to add another year of eligibility on the back end of their careers, but as far as playing right away at their new school? That won’t happen.

Again, I understand that the hardship waiver rule had to change, but to say that there is never a situation where a player should be able to play right away? To say that there is never a hardship situation? That doesn’t seem right either.

Andy Staples, the college sports writer at, wrote about this change to the hardship waiver. He had some great ideas about how to make the change better, prime among them is the athletic director at the athlete’s previous school having to sign off on the transfer for the athlete to even be considered for a hardship waiver. This is a great, great idea.

A few years ago, Oklahoma had a wide receiver named Justin McCay who wanted to transfer to be closer to a sick family member. Sooner athletic director Joe Castiglione went to bat for him. And still, the NCAA said no to a hardship waiver.

If the player’s previous school was OK with him receiving a hardship waiver — in McCay’s case, that would’ve meant he was playing against the Sooners as a member of the Kansas football team — then that would seem like a pretty good gauge of his eligibility for a hardship.

In Khari Harding’s case, you get the feeling that Auburn would sign off on his transfer, if given the chance. Football coach Gus Malzahn has expressed his disappointment in the way the situation has gone. He understands that Harding’s motives are pure. He understands that Harding would still be a Tiger if not for his dad’s cancer. He wants him to have the chance to play right away at Tulsa. That should count for something.

Again, I don’t have a problem with the NCAA changing the rule on hardship waiver. But it seems to have forgotten something — hardship waivers aren’t bad. That anyone could apply for one was.

Jenni Carlson

Jenni Carlson, a sports columnist at The Oklahoman since 1999, came by her love of sports honestly. She grew up in a sports-loving family in Kansas. Her dad coached baseball and did color commentary on the radio for the high school football... Read more ›