Head coach Nick Derba watches the action during a University of Maine baseball game in 2019. UMaine has suspended its spring sports programs until April 3. Credit: Ryan Long / UMaine Athletics

College sports has altered its landscape with the NCAA’s decision Thursday to allow all Division I student-athletes to transfer to another Division I school once without having to sit out a year.

The exception had previously been in place for most sports, but now undergraduate athletes in football, men’s and women’s basketball, men’s ice hockey and baseball can play right away after switching schools the first time.

Players who graduate in four years, but still have a year of eligibility remaining, also may transfer and play immediately without penalty.

Starting in 2022, to enter the NCAA transfer portal, the database for available athletes, those who play fall and winter sports must notify their schools they intend to transfer by May 1. For spring sports, they must declare their intention to switch schools by July 1.

During 2020-21, athletes in all sports are required to notify their schools of transfer by July 1.

University of Maine baseball coach Nick Derba and interim hockey coach Ben Guite predicted the first few years under the new transfer guidelines will be chaotic.

“Things will be magnified for a while. They will seem worse than they really are,” Derba said.

“It just means that we are going to have to not only recruit players to come here, we are also going to have to continue to recruit them while they are here to make sure they stay,” Guite said. “We are going to have to develop them and provide them with a positive experience.”

Guite is used to turnover because in college hockey, players aren’t bound by the same rules as in other sports. They can leave school to begin pro careers any time and many of the top players only stay in college a year or two.

Players are often drafted by National Hockey League teams before they enter college and those teams retain their rights.

College baseball players can’t get drafted by major league teams until after their junior season, so that ensures at least a three-year commitment.

“I like it as much as I dislike it,” Derba said. “We will benefit from it at times and be hurt by it at times.”

He could lose one of his best players to a higher-profile school. On the other hand, Derba pointed out that a player UMaine recruited heavily who chose a higher-profile school could become disenchanted and transfer to UMaine.

“We will have to continue to track players in case they become available,” he said.

There can be no further contact with a signed student-athlete until they enter the transfer portal.

Derba said many student-athletes have already done their transfer homework and have an idea where they would like to wind up before they enter the portal.

Some schools find ways to let it be known that they are interested in a player, maybe via a third party, even before the intention to transfer has been announced.

Derba said that has been happening for a long time.

Guite stressed that just because a talented player enters the portal, it doesn’t necessarily mean the player is desirable.

“He has to be the right fit. He has to have the same values,” Guite said.

Derba agreed, saying a student-athlete has to really want to be at UMaine.