What is the NCAA D1 men’s Basketball Transfer Portal? How Does It Work?

The amount of college basketball players looking to transfer was already on the rise before the implementation of the Transfer Portal. Since the Transfer Portal has been put in place, this number has skyrocketed and continues to do so. This rising number transfer players has had a significant impact on the sport of basketball. This new recruiting game requires high level marketing cleverness from schools and conferences if they want to maximize the programs attractiveness to players entering the transfer portal. Let’s take a closer look at this ins-and-outs of the Transfer Portal in relation to men’s college basketball and what it means to you.

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What is the NCAA Transfer Portal?

The Transfer Portal has drawn a lot of attention from players who are wondering what is is, why was this created and how does it work? Basically, the NCAA Transfer Portal was created in October 2018 to enable student athletes to ask a school compliance administrator to put their name in the portal to move schools. It has been put in place to quicken up the process. Before the transfer portal, tasks would have taken hours, days or weeks. Now, the process can be started in minutes. The school is afforded 2 business days to publicize the information. For the compliance administrators, the portal is an online location that has all the information needed to handle a transfer situation and having everything in a centralized spot cuts down the time they used to spend handling the process.

NOTE: It is up to the individual school to develop policies regarding portal requests.

What’s the process look like?

After a student athletes ask their school to enter their name in the portal, the administrators at the school have two business days to comply. Once a player’s name is entered, the student athletes receive an email notifying them that they are in the portal.

Student-athletes have the option to provide an email address and a phone number for any interested coaches to be able to contact them. Student athletes can also decide not to provide any contact information and only they can reach out to the schools they are interested in attending. The no-contact feature was built into the portal based on feedback from the Division I Student-Athlete Advisory Committee. The reasoning behind the choice of not to provide contact information is that some student athletes already have an idea where they would like to transfer and they don’t want their transfer process to mirror the experience of being recruited when they were playing high school basketball. The pace at which players can be contacted by coaches upon their entry into the portal and the rate at which players can now transfer from school to school is fast.

NOTE: Before the transfer portal, a student athlete was required to ask their coach for permission to contact other schools. The college coach could deny their request. This would mean the student athlete would have to go through a more lengthy process of more requests and appeals by making their case to the Athletics Director and the Designated Campus Administrator.

Why was the Transfer Portal Created?

The NCAA said the transfer portal was created as a compliance tool, to facilitate the process and systematically manage the transfer process from start to finish. The NCAA wanted to include more transparency to the process among schools and allow for student athletes to make known their desire to consider other programs.

What are the reasons players enter the Transfer Portal?

Sometimes players choose to play for a school with high hope that everything is going to go well and work out. This unfortunately, isn’t always the case. A reason a player might decide to enter the Transfer portal is because they aren’t in the rotation. If this happens, eventually the player begins to look at schools where he could get some playing time. Players who perform the best at the highest level will tend to transfer to and continue to compete at the highest level most of the time.

Can Student Athletes in the Transfer Portal immediately compete at a new school?

In Division 1 sports, student athletes can transfer 1-time to another four-year NCAA school and are eligible to compete immediately (providing they are academically eligible and the previous school does not object, without sitting out a year in residence). However, this 1-time transfer exception does not apply to men’s basketball, YOU MUST GET A WAIVER. Student athletes in basketball must file for a waiver to be able to compete without sitting out a season.

What are the reasons basketball players get approved for a transfer waiver?

We have just established that as a college basketball player, looking to transfer through the portal you must apply for a waiver to be eligible to play right away at the next school.

There are 11 waivers standards adopted through the Division I governance structure that can be meet, you just need to meet one. The staff can approve the request if the player can show extenuating and extraordinary mitigating circumstances beyond the student athlete’s control.

What happens if my transfer waiver gets denied?

If the staff denies the players request don’t worry there is another step. The student athlete can appeal to the Division I Committee for Legislative Relief to be granted immediate eligibility.

The most common reason for the waiver requests is no participation opportunity at the current school. Here is a list of the other reasons you can use to apply for the transfer waiver: egregious (abuse, deplorable, outrageous) behavior, student athlete injury or illness and family member injury or illness.

NOTE: Sometimes some of the waiver requests fall outside the guidelines of these categories and are approved based on the totality of circumstances.

In a no-participation-opportunity waiver request a student athlete is more likely to receive a waiver if the their previous school agrees that a participation opportunity isn’t available. The school can also dispute the claim.

FACT: Over 80% of the waiver requests are in men’s and women’s basketball and football.

What are the benefits of the Transfer Portal for Players?

For mid-major and major college basketball programs, the portal is a two-way street. NCAA Division 1 players do transfer in both directions. There is also opportunity for mid and lower-major programs to attract higher-ranked players who maybe disappointed in how their playing careers are going at their original school.

Transfer movement between conference levels (high-major, mid-major and low-major) creates data points worth monitoring as well. The term “up-transfer” is used to describe a player from a mid or low-major conference who transfers up to a high-major conference. While this is pretty rare overall, up-transfers are very valuable for high-major teams but are also equally damaging for mid and low-major basketball teams.

Is there a down-side to entering the Transfer Portal?

The downside of a student athlete that wants to leave their current situation by entering the transfer portal is that their current school can reduce or even stop giving them scholarship money. This would take effect at the end of the term that the request was made to enter the Transfer Portal. However, if a student athlete decides to withdraw from the portal (change their mind) and stay at their original school of choice, the original school can return them to the roster and restore any athletics aid (if they choose to).

FACT: The 2020-21 season saw more than 1,731 men’s college basketball players enter the transfer portal, with approximately 1/4 of all players who were on a D1 roster during the 2020-21 season are now playing at a different schools for the rest of the season. This is compared to ten years ago, where just 532 NCAA D1 players transferred.

What are College Coaches saying about the Transfer Portal?

There are a lot of mixed opinions when it comes to the transfer portal among college coaches. Coaches are saying that the one-time exemption really makes a difference and like the fact that players no longer have to sit out a year after transferring. Some coaches don’t mind the transfer portal at all, even like it but some do not. Some college coaches are of the opinion that they pursue transfers out of need but would much rather have a freshman player because “it’s just more fun”.

However, the transfer portal in recent years has driven the recruiting focus more towards “veteran” players over true freshmen. This is because the transfer players have the D1 level experience where as freshmen need experience to be able to adjust to the demands of D1 basketball. Coaches will look for good players wherever they can find them.

Retaining Players:

College coaches will have to focus on the quality of the experience if they want to make sure their athletes stay at their program. Coaching stability is correlated with roster stability. Based on the transfer portal, college basketball programs are going to changing their recruiting system. It is going to put more emphasis on the quality of the program and what the coaching staff will do to retain players. If college coaches don’t want their players to transfer, naturally they are going to put more emphasis on: regular re-evaluation of their program, increase their engagement with their players on the regular, and just generally providing a great basketball experience.

FACT: Quality transfer additions often shape the nation’s best teams. In 2021, 14 of the 50 players who recorded the most minutes on teams ranked in the final AP top 10 rankings were former transfers. This number doubled incoming freshmen and exceeded returning players of any class. Quote: Athletic Director U

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