The NCAA Division I Council did what was expected on the transfer issue Wednesday, but actually showed some surprising open field swerve when it comes to redshirts.

For all the attention that went to the new “notification” rule, it was not a broad or sweeping change to the transfer rules currently in place. Non-graduate transfers in football and basketball will still have to sit out a year (barring a special waiver) if they leave their original school for another. The image of the star player walking across the field at halftime and joining the opponent because they’ve got a three-touchdown lead isn’t going to happen, and never was, even if it made for some shock value.

What the new rule actually does is this: it prevents schools (as of October) from banning certain destinations for a player who wants to transfer. It stops the extreme cases where a school blocks a player from 30 or 40 schools. At the moment, it does not change the SEC rule that allows schools to block undergraduates from transferring within the league.

That measure was not part of the changes recently passed in Destin, which affected only graduate transfers. Whether the SEC intends to further alter its rules to come into sync with the national rule will be a discussion that will come later, although it might be a lonely island for a league that elects not to follow the NCAA’s lead.

Absolutely none of today’s ruling affects Brandon Kennedy, the Alabama offensive lineman who declared his intention to transfer last month. He is a graduate transfer. With the new SEC rule on grad transfers in place, Kennedy very well may end up playing in the league this fall but Alabama has provided no further updates on his status.

The changes to the redshirt rule are more intriguing. The new rule would allow football players to participate in up to four games in a season without losing eligibility, with no more of the “injury” requirement or the “first 30 percent of the season” restriction. Instead, it’s a simple four-game minimum.

“This change promotes not only fairness for college athletes, but also their health and well-being. Redshirt football student-athletes are more likely to remain engaged with the team, and starters will be less likely to feel pressure to play through injuries,” NCAA Division I chairman Blake James said in a statement. “Coaches will appreciate the additional flexibility and ability to give younger players an opportunity to participate in limited competition.”

Again, some of the extreme scenarios involving Alabama aren’t going to happen. No coach is going to hold a potential superstar out in the early going, then suddenly spring him on an unsuspecting Auburn and still redshirt him. For one thing, superstars aren’t going to stick around for five years anyway.

What it does do, though, is let a young player see action against Louisiana-LaFayette and The Citadel, get some game experience under his belt and not lose a year’s eligibility. It will also provide some added depth as teams deal with the attrition of a long season. Nick Saban wouldn’t put it exactly that way — he would never single out one opponent as better or worse than another, only as the next team on the schedule. But that’s how the new rule will work in the real world. And it’s a good thing.

Reach Cecil Hurt at cecil@tidesports.com or 205-722-0225.

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