The college football season is well underway. With the Peach Bowl and Fiesta Bowl scheduled for Saturday to decide who will play in the College Football National Championship on Jan. 9. While the games are newsworthy on their own, the underlying conversation around this season’s plethora of bowl games is the transfer from the NCAA portal.
The transfer portal opened on December 5 and players who choose to enter lose their ability to play this year’s bowling matches for their current team if they qualify. The transfer portal has long been a source of contention and conversation in college sports. However, the stakes are higher now that college athletes can get paid, and the transfer portal is even more controversial.
ESPN reports that last year more than 3,000 NCAA football players from DI, DII and DIII schools entered the transfer portal which was open year-round. The most in the history of the portal. The NCAA has changed the portal access dates so that students do not miss a year of eligibility. This year, in the first four days the portal opened on December 5, ESPN reported that more than 1,325 students entered the portal. The current portal window is open until January 15 and is expected to attract a record number of players looking to succeed at different universities.
In February, Sports Illustrated called the transfer portal “college football’s free agency” because students aren’t exclusively school-bound and can transfer with little resistance. High student transfer rates are putting more pressure on schools to retain players and the future of some sports programs up in the air.
The Name, Image, and Likeness (NIL) rules allow student-athletes to profit from their use in advertising and school representation. Students can be paid either through internal programs and recruiting at universities, or through external programs of booster clubs and collectives where donors provide money for the recruitment or payment of players. USA Today reports that the University of Oklahoma and Ohio State University have hired people who work full-time to negotiate NIL contracts between students, schools and outside programs.
On Wednesday, the University of Arkansas and the University of Kansas played in the AutoZone Liberty Bowl. Prior to the game, there was a long conversation surrounding Arkansas’ roster as 19 players entered the transfer portal. Many players who entered the portal were established starters, leaving Arkansas to face players who had yet to see many games.
“I don’t know if Kansas is in the same boat as us. I don’t feel like they are. I feel like they haven’t lost as much as we have,” Arkansas head coach Sam Pittman told Arkansas NBC. KARK affiliate. “With that comes opportunity. I’m thrilled the kids are going out there and having the opportunity to play. They’re excited about it. You can feel the excitement from the team.” Arkansas won the game in triple overtime 55-53.
On Saturday, the University of Iowa Hawkeyes took on the University of Kentucky Wildcats in the TransPerfect Music City Bowl. Iowa and Kentucky entered the game after finalizing deals with new transfer portal quarterbacks earlier this month. Kentucky acquired former North Carolina State quarterback Devin Leary and Michigan’s Cade McNamara signed on to play for Iowa.
As was the previous rule, NCAA players who take advantage of NIL will not lose their scholarships or player status, motivating players to make playing decisions based on financial opportunity rather than other factors such as the culture of the program and the coaching staff. Sports reporting programs are offering students six-figure deals, apartments and new cars as recruiting deals, adding to the pressure for schools to deliver on the field to justify extra player costs.
As the 2023-24 season approaches, expect significant roster changes as the culture and climate of college sports changes to accommodate the NIL system and transfers become more common .