What is the Transfer Portal?

The transfer portal is the system that allows college football players to change schools. It is a database that lists all players who intend to transfer, signaling to other schools that they can reach out to those players. It is the medium by which college football players transfer from one school to another.

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What is the transfer portal?

How often can players transfer?

When was the transfer portal created?

What were the old transfer rules?

What is the Transfer Portal?

The transfer portal is the system that allows college football players to change schools. It is a database that lists all players who intend to transfer, signaling to other schools that they can reach out to those players. It is the medium by which college football players transfer from one school to another.

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How many times can college football players transfer?

Undergraduate students can transfer one time to any school with no strings attached. Graduate students can transfer with no strings attached, as well. The NCAA rules on transferring and eligibility changed in 2021. Graduate students previously were allowed to transfer and play immediately; however, undergraduate students who transferred used to have to sit out for one year before they could play for their new school. That is no longer the case.

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When was the transfer portal created?

The transfer portal was created in 2018. Its goal is to provide a centralized place for schools to monitor transfer students. It created a single system for players to give notice that they intend to transfer, and for schools to be able to reach out to those players.

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What were the old transfer rules?

Prior to 2021, college football players had to sit out for one year if they transferred schools. Graduate students were exempt from this rule. Graduate students were allowed to transfer schools and play immediately. In 2021, the NCAA changed the transfer rules to expand this exception to undergraduate students. Undergrads can now transfer once and be eligible to play immediately, too.

Prior to 2021, if an undergraduate player transferred schools, they had to sit out for a year or request a waiver. A waiver allowed a college football player to be immediately eligible if they met certain criteria that were arbitrarily enforced. The NCAA did not apply waivers in a consistent manner. Given the new rule change to allow one transfer with immediate eligibility, that problem has largely been solved.

The change in transfer rules came around the same time as the change to name, image, and likeness rules in college football. When considering these two significant changes, and seismic conference realignment sparked by Oklahoma and Texas joining the SEC, 2021 proved to be a watershed moment for college football.

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What is NIL? Name, Image, and Likeness

NIL stands for “name, image, and likeness.” It has to do with the ability of college athletes to earn money from sponsorship deals and other advertising dollars. Until recently, it was illegal under NCAA rules.

What does NIL mean?

“NIL” stands for “name, image, and likeness.” It has to do with the ability of college athletes to earn money from their “name, image, and likeness.” In other words, college athletes can accept sponsorship deals, and other advertising dollars. 

NIL is significant because college athletes are otherwise unpaid. They are compensated for their skills and labor with scholarships for tuition, as well as other school-related benefits such as dining dollars, housing assistance, and more. NIL is a way for college students to earn additional money on top of their scholarships. 

Supreme Court NCAA Decision

In June of 2021, the Supreme Court of the United States issued a ruling that has the potential to dramatically reshape college football. The case—NCAA vs Alston—raised potential antitrust issues with the NCAA. The Court ruled that the NCAA cannot prevent students from receiving benefits related to education. The Court argued that the NCAA was seeking exemption from normal antitrust laws—and that they would not be granted it.

The Alston ruling opened up NIL in college athletics

After the Alson ruling in 2021, the NCAA changed its longstanding policy that outlawed players earning money from their name, image, and likeness.

Prior to the NCAA vs. Alston Supreme Court case, college athletes could not earn money from their NIL. The NCAA forbid it. However, the Supreme Court case has had a dramatic impact. This rule change came in large part due to the pressure that the Alston ruling placed on the NCAA as a potential violator of antitrust laws.

The NCAA has become a multi-billion dollar enterprise, and it is the only system that college football players can compete under. At the same time, it has not paid any of its athletes. College athletes are highly skilled individuals; they are of legal age to work in the United States; and they dedicate significant time and labor that generates massive revenue for the NCAA.

While the Alston Supreme Court case did not rule on college athletes being directly paid, it did prompt the NCAA to change its NIL rules. It also opens the door for more cases. Justice Brett Kavanaugh wrote the concurring opinion that signals that the Court will rule similarly in future cases against the NCAA. As a result, the NCAA is under significant pressure to change course. One of the consequences of that is that players are allowed to monetize their NIL—and begin to earn some compensation for their skills and labor.

So Can College Athletes Make Money?

Yes, as of 2021, college athletes can now earn money from their name, image, and likeness. College athletics has historically been an “amateur” competition. The NCAA used this term, “amateur,” to argue that athletes should not be compensated for their skills and labor. That facade is starting to crumble with the Alston case and NIL rule change.

How the NCAA handles NIL

Before the NIL rule change, some states in 2021 were already planning to allow college athletes to monetize their personal brands in their state. There were several states, such as South Carolina and Florida, that were set to make NIL legal for college athletes in July of 2021. That—combined with the June, 2021, Alston ruling—forced the NCAA’s hand; change had to come.