Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Solving the mystery that is the NCAA transfer portal

March 23, 2022
<p>Head Coach Mel Tucker looks on during the Spartans game against the Wolverines. Oct. 30, 2021. </p>

Head Coach Mel Tucker looks on during the Spartans game against the Wolverines. Oct. 30, 2021.

Photo by Chloe Trofatter | The State News

The NCAA's transfer portal is a mysterious entity. While it isn't a magical door to take you to the lands of Narnia or a mystical portal in the bottom of a cave, there are still lots of questions as to how it works.

The NCAA transfer portal made its debut on Oct. 15, 2018, and Michigan State has been at the forefront of maximizing its capabilities, particularly in the football program as Michigan State Head Coach Mel Tucker used it to gain players like junior running back Kenneth Walker III to obtain an 11-2 record this past season.

It was created to help the transfer process operate smoother than the previous system and give more power to the student-athlete by allowing them to not be bound to a school when they decide that they would like to explore other options. 

The process

Every school’s process is different, and Dan Scheid, the Director of Compliance for Eligibility, handles the transfer portal for the MSU athletic department. He shared the process of when the student-athletes request to transfer from Michigan State:

“We have a two-page notification of transfer form that a student-athlete will complete,” Scheid said. “Once they have completed that form, we have 48 hours with which to enter their name into the portal.”

Junior jumper of the track and field team Heath Baldwin, who transferred from Michigan to MSU, shared what his process was like with the transfer portal:

“I notified (my coach) that I was going to be putting my name in the portal before I did it out of respect,” Baldwin said. “I had to email one of the compliance officers at Michigan ... and they ended up sending me the forms I needed to fill out. ... They said they were going to do it within 48 hours and they took the entire 48 hours.”

Availability of information

The transfer portal has made it much easier for coaches and their staff to see and contact players from other colleges that are available but it has also made it easier for compliance administrators like Scheid because all of the student’s information is included in the transfer tracer. 

The tracer, which has been around since before the transfer portal existed but has since been modified, is a tool used to help share the academic and athletic information of a player which helps institutions understand if they are eligible to transfer into their program. 

Impact of timing

When a student-athlete decides to transfer, their timing of transferring can have a very important impact on their financial situation.

“If a player enters a portal during a term, then their aid cannot be touched during that term,” Scheid said. “If they went in (before a semester), their aid could be pulled before that semester.”

The returning process

Ultimately, the coaches and staff decide if a player can return from the portal if the grass is not greener on the other side for said player.

“They are forfeiting the rights (to team facilities), however, coaches have the ability to keep them in good standing,” Schneid said. “They can keep them on the roster, keep them participating in team activities, and keep them on scholarship for future years. ... Each individual situation is unique.”


Fall and winter sport student-athletes who are looking to transfer have to enter their name into the portal by May 1 of each year to be eligible for the upcoming season while the deadline for spring-sport student-athletes is July 1.

Schools like Michigan State have reaped the benefits of the transfer portal and it's safe to say that it has an enormous impact on the way college athletics operate now. 

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