Notre Dame Open to Adding Transfers

Cody Riggs Transfer
Florida Gators defensive back Cody Riggs (31) against the LSU Tigers during the second half of a game at Tiger Stadium. LSU defeated Florida 17-6. Mandatory Credit: Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

Should there ever be a question as to what impact Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly has had on the football program, 2014 would be the year to dust for fingerprints. Kelly and athletic director Jack Swarbrick have completely restructured Notre Dame’s operation in nearly every way. The Fighting Irish have spent the offseason signing an exclusive apparel deal with Under Armour, announcing plans for a future stadium renovation, replacing Notre Dame Stadium’s grass surface with synthetic FieldTurf and creating a new Irish Invasion football camp to match the recruiting success the University of Florida has experienced with its Friday Night Lights camp. Given Brian Kelly’s recent statements to the media, Notre Dame’s 21st Century makeover is far from over.

The latest wrinkle in Brian Kelly’s playbook involves keeping an open mind to the NCAA’s graduate transfer exception, which allows student-athletes to transfer without being forced to sit out one year as long as the student-athlete has graduated from the original institution and is selecting a graduate program not offered by the original institution. The graduate transfer exception should be appealing to Notre Dame given how it operates.

“The grad student exception is the best rule in the books because it is the only one that offers a positive incentive for athletes,” writes Sports Illustrated columnist Andy Staples. That positive incentive is rewarding student-athletes who graduate, and school-minded athletes are the very definition of Brian Kelly’s “right kind of guys.”

To date the transfer exception has mostly involved Notre Dame and its high graduation rate outsourcing its student-athletes. Former Rivals 5-star quarterback Dayne Crist graduated from Notre Dame and utilized the transfer exception to move on to the University of Kansas, where he reunited with former Notre Dame head coach Charlie Weis. In the past several months Notre Dame’s football squad has lost Andrew Hendrix, Alex Welch and Lo Wood to the transfer exception, with all following former Notre Dame offensive coordinator Chuck Martin to Miami University in Ohio. Despite the string of defections, the rule is a perfect opportunity for Notre Dame.

Former Rivals 4-star cornerback Cody Riggs considered signing with Notre Dame his senior year of high school but instead committed to the in-state Florida Gators given the coaching uncertainty surrounding South Bend after the dismissal of Charlie Weis. Riggs would become a leader in Florida’s secondary, playing in 40 games and starting 26 at both cornerback and safety. The experienced Riggs recently graduated from the University of Florida and will use the NCAA’s graduate transfer exception to enroll this June at Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish are receiving a dynamic athlete that will provide instant leadership to Notre Dame’s secondary but, more importantly, Riggs will receive a Master’s in Business Administration from Notre Dame’s top-ranked Mendoza College of Business.

Cody Riggs’ transfer provides a perfect example of how powerful the NCAA’s graduate transfer exception could be for Notre Dame if harnessed properly. With such a precedent, will Notre Dame see more like Cody Riggs in the future?

“I always have an interest in adding transfers if they fit academically,” Kelly told the media recently. “I would only do it after your program is on good, solid ground, you know what I mean? That you’re not going to upset the locker room. That your locker room is in a good position. Our locker room is in a very good position where you can bring in a guy and not feel like, you know, he’s going to upset what’s already developed in your locker room. The first couple years I would not have gone that route, but where we are right now, we can bring in a guy for a year and do that.”

A willingness to test the NCAA’s graduate transfer exemption serves as the latest effort by Brian Kelly to evaluate all possible avenues to improve Notre Dame’s program while simultaneously maintaining its high level of academic achievement. And given Kelly’s expanding list of successes, Notre Dame fans may even be warming to the notion of change.

Scott Janssen is a blogger for the Huffington Post and has authored several nationally-featured articles, including an appearance on MSNBC as a sports contributor. He talks football 24 hours a day, much to the chagrin of his fiancée. Scott can be reached at

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  1. Thus far, the kids ND has allowed to transfer in were previously recruited by the Irish, and, apparently fully RKG vetted when initially recruited.

    The football team with a stated roster of 85 has fewer transfers than Mediocre Mike Brey’s Basketball team. This speaks volumes about Kelly and that other sniveling disgrace. Oh well, at least we have Muffet’s warriors in the Winter.

    Jordan Prestwood, Amir Carlisle and Cody Riggs were previously recruited by the Irish. Ty Isaac would have fit that profile also. Hopefully, the Riggs thing is also a precedent for the graduate student rule.

    I would never expect anything less from Our Lady’s University, but they have also nicely facilitated the exits of the players leaving to other schools, and the mass exodus to Martin and Miami was kind of nice to see. Win-win is good, and arguably Christian.

    The 300 pound fly in the ointment was Vanderdoes’ release to UCLA.

    We’ll probably never get the “true facts” but there may have been something rotten in the burghs of Placerville or Westwood or both.

  2. If it fits within the academic & athletic parameters, why would we not do it. Use our system to our advantage, WOW, WHAT A CONCEPT!


  3. It is good we are going to accept these transfers. It would be crazy not
    to. We have enough to overcome.

  4. Good post, Scott.

    Accepting college grads with eligibility who have obviously proven they are academically
    sound with an undergraduate degree in hand has indeed proven that BK and Swarbick
    have taken ND, along with stadium renovations and lucrative contracts with new sponsors,
    into the 21st century. Using the advantage of having an elite graduate program will indeed attract quality
    student-athletes, which is our goal – whether they’re coming out of high school or college.

    It serves as the opposite of those who use college as a hold-over en route to the NFL.
    To quote Seinfeld, “Not that there’s (necessarily) anything wrong with that!”
    Hopefully, Cody Riggs will serve as a gateway to student-athletes who’ve figured out that
    another degree from an elite school could serve as a world-class
    insurance back-up to an always uncertain future opportunity in the NFL.

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