More than 1,000 players have entered the transfer portal for the 2023 off-season so far. It seems as though this trend continues to uptick. Even starters like Kyle McCord who quarterbacked Ohio State, Walter Nolen who dominated on the defensive line at Texas A&M and other big names are on the market.
Many are left wondering how is this possible. How does the transfer portal work?
Understanding the transfer portal and its evolution
The transfer portal is not anything new, but it did undergo some adjustments in 2021 when NIL was initially being broached to become accessible to student athletes.
Before 2021, transferring was a lot rarer. According to an article written by ESPN‘s Tom VanHaaren, “In the 2019 season, only 6.4% of FBS rosters were made up of transfers according to data from SportSource analytics. That number grew to 20.5% of rosters in 2023.”
Before 2021, there were three main rules around transferring:
1. You could transfer one time, but would have to sit out a year and therefore lose a year of athletic eligibility.
2. You could transfer as a graduate student and be eligible to play immediately.
3. If your current school had a head coaching chance, you could transfer and be eligible to play immediately.
Jalen Hurts is an example of a graduate transfer as he earned his degree from the University of Alabama, but was beat out for the job by Tua Tagovailoa. Hurts transferred to Oklahoma but was able to play immediately without losing a year of athletic eligibility due to earning his degree.
A less recent example is Russell Wilson when he transferred from NC State to Wisconsin his senior year.
The point being that big names transferring was very seldom, because this was the only way you could do it typically without losing eligibility.
Starting in 2021, there became only one main rule about transferring, and that was that a player no longer was required to sit out a year as long as they were academically eligible upon transferring. Players could also transfer more than once, and hence the reason we saw a spike in transfers.
A player that took advantage of this multiple times that may ring a bell is recently retired quarterback JT Daniels. After spending the first two years of his career at USC, Daniels transferred a total of three times between 2020 and 2023 to the University of Georgia, then West Virginia, then Rice.
In an attempt to pump the breaks on the number of transfers, starting this year the new rules are outlined below:
1. If it is your 1st time transferring, you do not have to sit out.
2. If you transfer for a 2nd time, and you are not a graduate transfer, you have to sit out one year, losing a year of athletic eligibility.
3. If you are a grad transfer, you are automatically eligible even if it is your 2nd time transferring.
4. If a head coaching change happens, a player can transfer and play immediately regardless of how many times they have transferred.
While the number of transfers in college football so far in 2023 is still staggering, the percentage of players that are first-time transfers is much higher than it was in the 2022 off-season. Versus in 2022, you saw a more equal number of first and second time transfers due to their not being a limit.
So, while things look like a zoo right now in the transfer portal, do not expect them to remain as crazy starting next year as more and more players will have used their one-time transfer.
It should be noted as well that the transfer window for 2023 opened on Monday, December 4th. Players need to enter the transfer portal within 30 days, but do not need to decide within 30 days. LockedOn LSU’s Caroline Fenton goes into this and other transfer portal details on her recent episode.
Fenton does note that although a player does not have to decide within 30 days on where to transfer, that there are advantages to it instead of deciding at a later date.
Time will tell, but it seems like the NCAA may have found a happy medium with the transfer rules in college football with the “one-time” rule.