With the college football season now over and the National Signing Day (February 2nd) for football just weeks away, it’s probably a good time to discuss the transfer portal. First launched on Oct. 15th, 2018 the transfer portal was initially created as tool for compliance officers to manage the transfer process for student-athletes from beginning to end, while allowing student-athletes the ability to make known their intention to consider other programs.
The portal in and of itself is quite simply a tool; it’s a database. It is the 2021 updated transfer rules for football and basketball that is point of discussion here. In April 2021, the NCAA’s one-time transfer rule was officially instituted and went into effect. This rule allows student-athletes to transfer to a different school one time and play immediately. Previous iterations of this rule required those student-athletes who transferred to “sit out” one academic year before being eligible to compete for their new institution (with some exceptions). Of course, I am paraphrasing the rules here for simplicity sake.
According to 247sports.com (who is keeping track of the transfer portal better than anyone else I’ve seen), found that as of December 28, 2021 there were: 911 FBS scholarship players that entered the portal since 8.1.2021; 32 players withdrew; 243 (27.6%) players announced new schools; leaving 636 FBS scholarship players remaining in the portal.
The reasons why a student-athlete might elect to transfer from one institution to another is outside the scope of this posting. However, the purpose is to provide additional information and insight to student-athletes and their support networks (e.g. family, friends, significant other, mentors, etc.). One small fine print issue that seems to be overlooked in media reports and articles written about the transfer portal is NCAA bylaw 188.8.131.52 (e).
If a student-athlete enters the transfer portal during an academic semester, the institution will continue to pay for that scholarship…until the conclusion of that semester. In practical terms, if a student-athlete entered the transfer portal in November and the semester ends in December, the school will pay for that scholarship until the end of that semester (i.e. December). This means that at the moment, there are still a few hundred football student-athletes that are not currently enrolled in class and/or waiting for find another institution to compete for. The status of their scholarships is in limbo at best and at worse, the program just received another scholarship to use for their recruiting purposes from the student-athletes that entered the transfer portal. Oh and fyi, coaches cannot directly or indirectly communicate with a student-athlete until they are in the transfer portal.
To further complicate this issue is the football signing day is only weeks away! On average, every year college football coaches plan for anywhere between 20-25 scholarships to give away to the incoming class of student-athletes (most of which are high school players). Notwithstanding the fact that the early signing period (December 15th – 17th) has already ended. Therefore, the amount of scholarships that could be available is further diminished by those high school student-athletes that have already signed their NLI’s (National Letter of Intent). Coaches have to decide between the high school players they have been recruiting and looking to the transfer portal to fill their roster.
The fundamental point that I would like to drive home is for the student-athletes to fully understand the gamble they are making by entering the transfer portal. There is no guarantee that a new team will have a scholarship available to give to the student-athlete and/or some other student-athletes might find their options more limited than previously thought. The worst-case scenario is that there will be student-athletes without scholarships and/or institutions to attend. It is my sincere hope that this information serves to provide a slightly different and informative perspective for the student-athletes and support systems to fully consider.
One of the unintended consequences of the new rules surrounding student-athletes transferring are those student-athletes left without an institution to attend and a scholarship to cover the financial costs of attendance. There has to be a concerted effort to track those student-athletes to understand how pervasive this issue is as well as examining any other unintended consequences that is not widely discussed.