In October 2018, I first heard a term that sounded like something off of Star Trek.It was called the “transfer portal.” Since then, it has become a household term that effects every CFB program. That effect, depending on your perspective, can be viewed either as a positive or a negative.
The original purpose of the transfer portal was to manage, digitize and streamline the transfer process. The portal also makes the process more organized and transparent. In plain terms, the transfer portal organizes a complicated issue.
Since every transfer is unique and comes with it’s own set of challenges for the compliance officers, simplifying the process was needed. This point cant be overstated. The NCAA requires each institution to have a compliance officer. That officer relies heavily on the new portal to ensure proper procedures are followed.
Previously, the process for a Division 1 student athlete to transfer required the permission of the head coach just to contact other programs with the intent of transferring. If permission was denied, the student athlete can then appeal to the Athletics Director. If the request was again denied, the next appeal is to the assigned University Administrator, usually the Dean of Students. If there is no satisfactory result then, the student athlete can appeal to a university committee comprised of both college professors and fellow students.
After just typing that, it’s easy for me to see this process was outdated, complicated and extremely subjective. It was a headache for both the student athlete and the compliance officers. So, from the standpoint of uniformity and efficiency, the portal is light years ahead of the old process.
Now, when any athlete chooses to transfer, he or she need only notify their coach to enter the portal. If the athlete has graduated, they are eligible to transfer with immediate eligibility. If an athlete wants to compete at a different competition level they are also immediately eligible, regardless of their academic classification . Finally, if an undergraduate athlete requests a transfer to another Division 1 program, they must sit out a year of competition.
Division 1 athletes can get a one-time transfer to another program to be eligible to compete immediately. Unfortunately, men’s and women’s basketball, football, baseball and men’s ice hockey are not granted the one-time transfer. Those student athletes are required to sit out a year of competition but can request a wavier from the NCAA.
For instance, if an athlete has a family issue that would necessitate him or her needing to be closer to home, upon approval, they could compete at their new program immediately. Other situations that arise must be reviewed on a case-by-case basis.
This is a point of contention for those that view the portal as nothing more than college free agency. The subjective nature to granting waivers seems arbitrary in most cases. In the fall of 2019, the NCAA proposed making it more difficult to receive a waiver due to the sheer volumes of request. At any given time, there are over 2500 student athletes in the portal seeking a transfer.
I have tried to remain objective and look at the process of transferring factually. In doing so, for me, it comes down to doing what’s best for the student athlete. Since, in the final analysis, the student athletes are the reason for competitive sports. However, on an emotional level it’s not that simple.
As a fan, I have a hard time reconciling the concept of loyalty to your team and teammates, and fully buy in to the concept of being “All In.” Juxtapose that against leaving to pursue another opportunity and its a hard pill to swallow.