So, I just spent the last 20 mins reading through this NCAA publication that is available online here about player transfers, and Willis’ situation is complicated. However, there may be some silver linings for UCLA if he does indeed decide to “transfer” back here. Granted, I’m not a legal expert, so the following is based on my interpretation of the transfer rules as outlined by this NCAA document. Here are some tidbits I found that may illuminate his situation better:
1) Is Willis a transfer-athlete? If Willis is considered a transfer-athlete, he must fulfill the one-year academic residence prior to playing football. To be considered a transfer-athlete, one of the following three conditions must be met: a) enrolled as a full-time student during a regular academic term (summer does not count), b) reported for practice with the regular squad, or c) practiced or played while enrolled part-time. The questions I don’t have answers to are whether Willis enrolled full-time while at UNC after leaving UCLA, and whether he participated in any official practices with the team. Can anyone provide more info on this? If Willis can answer no to all of these questions, he may not be viewed as a “transfer-athlete” according to the NCAA definition. Therefore, the one-year academic residency requirement may be waived.
2) The basic transfer rule is “You must spend one academic year in residence before you are eligible to compete.” If Willis is classified as a transfer-athlete from UNC, his return to UCLA would trigger the one-year clock. However, his situation is a little unique in the sense that he already served his academic year in residence at UCLA prior to leaving for UNC. Would the NCAA waive this requirement if he returns to UCLA since he technically already served his academic year in residence? Willis can make a strong case to have this requirement waived.
3) Transferring from a 4-year to another 4-year school. For athletes transferring from one 4-year institution to another, the one-year academic in residence requirement can be waived “if you return to your first school without participating at the second school.” If Willis did not participate in an official UNC team practice, he can petition to waive the one-year requirement. If he did, then this point is moot.
The biggest question is whether or not Willis participated in any official UNC team practices prior to the Butch Davis debacle. If he didn’t, he can make a strong argument for immediate playing eligibility should he return to UCLA. I couldn’t find any information to confirm or deny his participation in team practices since his transfer from UCLA. I’ll keep searching and post what I find. Regardless where he does end up, I wish Brandon the best as his commitment to family is something to be admired.