With the ever-changing NCAA and college athletics scene, transfer athletes have become more and more common, especially in college basketball.
When a basketball player initially commits to a college team, the intent is for the student to be at the school for their entire college career and graduate from the school. However, it doesn’t always work out this way and a student or coach may realize that the team or school is no longer a good fit for the player.
A player cannot simply leave one college for another without taking the right steps, though. Each athlete who wants to play in a different place must follow the NCAA transfer rules. The NCAA transfer rules are specific to each sport and today we will discuss what's included in the process.
As mentioned previously, basketball transfers are not uncommon and ESPN often reports basketball players moving elsewhere. After this 2022 season, we saw many high profile college players like Kendric Davis (the reigning ACC player of the year), Nijel Pack (earned All Big 12 First Team Honors), and Tyrese Hunter (Big 12 Freshman of the Year) transfer to new institutions for the 2023 season.
Many people are aware of the term “red-shirt” which requires transfer students to sit out a season and attend class at their new institution full-time before they can be eligible to play one again. Most recently, there was a rule change allowing students one transfer without having to sit out. In addition, conferences sometimes have their own rules that can be even more restrictive.
The Transfer Portal and Timing a Transfer
It is best to start the transfer process as soon as you realize that a school is no longer the right fit for you. However, it is important to keep track of some small details before making a hasty decision.
For example, in some cases if you enter the NCAA transfer portal, you may impact you scholarship or playing time at your current school. If you are completely certain that you are transferring, this not an issue, but if you are still on the fence, you should really think through your decision. The current athletic scholarship cannot be impacted, just future ones.
Once you have made your decision to transfer, you enter into what is called the “transfer portal”. The transfer portal is a list of players who have eligibility left for future seasons. Being in the transfer portal, you are able to contact coaches from other places and get an idea of what schools may be interested in you and what they have to offer.
To enter the portal, you must provide written notification to the compliance administrator at your current school, but you are not required to notify coaches or administration. The NCAA has created two transfer portal windows: One between the final Sunday of November and Mid-December and another between April 15 and May 1.
If you previously signed a National Letter of Intent and plan on heading to a different NLI school, you will either have to lose playing for a year or be granted a waiver from the school which allows you to attend and play. NLI schools are NCAA DI and DII schools, so if you were to choose DIII schools or a NAIA school, you would not have to worry about this rule.
This rule also differs if you were a walk-on at the initial institution. Walk-ons are typically eligible to play immediately at their new school. However, the walk-on must not have received athletic scholarship to play there or were not recruited to play there.
Redshirt Seasons For Transfer Athletes
We briefly discussed redshirting previously, but the official definition of a player who is redshirting is a full-time student who does not play in more than four games in a season, thus not using a year of their four years of eligibility. Most recently, NCAA announced that players could officially transfer once without missing a year of competition, skyrocketing the number of transfers.
Traditionally, a redshirt player In DI and DII schools, players can still partake in practices, while in DIII schools players can only practice up to the first competition of the season. NCAA rules require a player redshirt between certain transfers, however sometimes waivers are granted allowing players to play right away.
Graduate Transfers In The Portal
One of the exceptions to the “redshirt” rule is the graduate transfer rule. The graduate transfer rule allows basketball players to transfer institutions without a redshirt year as long as they completed a bachelor’s degree before leaving their institution and have eligibility remaining on their five-year clock.
This rule was adopted so a player was not penalized for wanting to pursue their graduate degree elsewhere than their undergraduate degree.
Advantages and Disadvantages of the Transfer Portal
Transferring colleges has many positives for student athletes. For some playing in junior colleges or lower-ranked DI schools, it is a good opportunity to move to a more competitive stage and gain more exposure.
In addition, the transfer portal also allows some students to test the water of the NBA Draft, giving them more more options to go back to school should going pro not work out.
However, there have been a lot of arguments against the transfer portals and the newest change removing the year wait. The number of transfers negatively impacted teams and coaches and now constantly reshape their team after each season. Additionally, redshirting can take a mental toll on players who feel defeated when riding the bench or don’t feel as prepared physically when they are not actively competing.