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Giger: Transfer portal numbers already staggering, and will grow much bigger in future

Photo from Penn State Twitter: Seth Lundy

There are 357 Division I men’s basketball teams, and those teams get 13 scholarships apiece. So that’s a total of 4,641 scholarship players.

Currently, there are 1,370 players who have entered the transfer portal in men’s basketball, according to the Verbal Commits database.

That is an astounding 29.5 percent of players in the portal. Which is absolutely mind boggling. (Some are walk-ons, of course, but the 29.5 percent represents the total number of players compared to scholarships available.)

Just think about that: Nearly one-third of the players in the ENTIRE SPORT are looking to transfer.

Penn State has had seven players in the portal this offseason, and four have departed already (Myreon Jones, Jamari Wheeler, Trent Buttrick, Patrick Kelly). Izaiah Brockington decided to stay, and two others are still deciding (John Harrar and Seth Lundy).

In football, there are roughly 1,800 players in the transfer portal, according to this Sports Illustrated story. There are 130 teams with 85 scholarships apiece, for a total of 11,050 players.

So that represents 16.3 percent of available scholarship players in the portal (again, walk-ons are part of all this, too), and the number will grow with more transfers after spring ball and this summer.

Today, it’s finally expected to become official that Division I college football and basketball players will be allowed a one-time transfer exception, meaning they can switch schools and be eligible to play immediately without sitting out a year. Athletes in other collegiate sports have had that opportunity for many years, but not football and basketball players.

The long-awaited change reportedly has already passed and will be announced today at some point.

Here are some numbers to consider about just how many players have transferred in recent years. These numbers are from Verbal Commits in men’s Division I basketball:

2012: 577

2013: 672

2014: 752

2015: 829

2016: 800

2017: 904

2018: 882

2019: 989

2020: 1025

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2021: 1370 (so far)

Wow! We’re already talking about a 33.7 percent increase from last year to this year, and we probably aren’t even close to the top figure just yet for the 2021 transfers. One college coach told Sports Illustrated he believes the number will get to 2,000 in men’s basketball this offseason.

If it does get to 2,000, that would represent 43.1 percent of scholarships available in the entire sport.

That’s almost unbelievable.


We’ve known all of this was coming for a good while now — at least a year — and now we’ve reached the point of reckoning where the proposal has passed and is ready to be implemented.

As you’ve certainly heard or read elsewhere by now, all of this is going to change college athletics as we know it. This is, without question, the biggest change to college sports in my lifetime, and really of anybody’s lifetime.

I have frequently compared this to Curt Flood challenging the reserve clause in Major League Baseball, which ultimately led to free agency.

If you grew up in the 1960s or before, you got used to seeing the same players on every team each year, because they really couldn’t go anywhere else. Compare that to how things are now in MLB. Players come and go all the time through free agency, and today’s sport would be unrecognizable to fans from 60 years ago or longer.

Given that, try to imagine what college football and basketball will be like in 50-60 years. We already could be at 40 percent of basketball players and nearly 20 percent of football players looking to transfer this year, and the rule hasn’t even been made official yet.

Could a day come where 60 percent of college basketball players change teams every year? Or 40 percent of football players?

Those numbers may seem a bit far-fetched right now, but are they really? The NCAA is allowing just a one-time transfer exception now, but it wouldn’t be a surprise to see total free agency at some point with unlimited transfer exceptions.

Fans had better get used to all of this. I have seen comments from numerous people in recent months akin to, “If the players don’t want to be here, then good riddance,” or something like, “The transfer portal has already gone too far.”

Folks, you ain’t seen nothing yet.

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Written By

Cory Giger is a 15-year veteran of the Penn State beat and a journalist with 28 years of experience. He has won more than 100 state and national journalism awards during his career, plus he's a voter for the Heisman Trophy in football and Wooden Award in basketball.



  1. Jon Palmer

    April 17, 2021 at 1:16 pm

    This article makes it sound like football and men’s basketball were the only sports with rules making it hard to transfer.
    Why wasn’t there even a MENTION of the other 3 sports affected by this new rule: Baseball, Men’s Hockey, and Women’s Basketball?

  2. Pingback: The Portal is Open – Josh's World

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