NCA shrinks transfer portal window; removes caps on yearly signings

Published 9:29 pm Wednesday, October 4, 2023

The Associated Press

The NCAA Division I Council on Wednesday approved a smaller window during which football and basketball players can enter their names into the transfer portal and still be eligible to play at a new school the following season.

The decision shaves the timeframe from 60 days to 45. The council also voted to eliminate caps on how many players Division I football teams can sign in a year, though overall scholarship limits will remain in place.

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The council tackled several items over two busy days of meetings in Indianapolis, during which it approved a package of proposals that would regulate name, image and likeness compensation for athletes and another that recommends stricter penalties for individuals who commit rules violations.

The council also directed committees responsible for athlete reinstatement and eligibility issues to re-examine penalties for those who bet on sporting events, but not on their own teams.

Changes could go into effect as soon as late October and be applied retroactively, which could impact athletes such as Iowa defensive lineman Noah Shannon, who has already been suspended for the season for gambling.

Recommendations for revisions include:

— On a first offense, eliminate potential game suspensions, regardless of the amount of money wagered and including bets placed on other sports at the athlete’s school. Athletes would be required to go through an education program.

— On a second offense, potentially involve game suspensions, depending on the value of the wager.

— On a third or subsequent offense could mean the loss of one full season of eligibility.

The NCAA also announced it would begin advocating for changes to state gambling laws and regulations to provide more protections for athletes from harassment or coercive behavior.

“Some states have great policies on the books to protect student-athletes from harassment and coercion and to protect the integrity of the games, but as more states pass or amend laws, more needs to be done,” NCAA President Charlie Baker said.

The association is calling for mandatory hotlines to report inappropriate behavior to law enforcement, increased penalties for bettors who harass college athletes and mandatory education for operators to help identify harassment. The NCAA also is advocating for states to allow sports wagering only for those 21 and older.

Transfer windows for undergraduate athletes were first implemented last year, and the timing of the transfer period is determined on a sport-by-sport basis.

In football, there were two options: a 45-day window starting in December, after the regular season, and a second in the spring.

The dates of the windows will be the same but the first will shrink to 30 days. There will be an additional five-day window for athletes whose teams compete in the College Football Playoff.

The second window will remain at the end of April. The NCAA said that according to its data, 61% of athletes who transfer entered the portal within the first 30 days.

Football coaches had called for shorter windows, and it became apparent that most players were acting quickly so they could switch schools and join their new teams in time for the winter/spring semester.

The basketball window opens after the season. Coaches in that sport were hoping to shorten the window to 30 days, but athletes advocated for 45 and their position was supported by Baker. The windows will open for 45 days, starting the Monday after Selection Sunday in March for both men’s and women’s basketball players.

“Moving forward, we will continue to evaluate the impact of transfer windows on student-athletes, coaches and athletics programs,” said Lynda Tealer, chairwoman of the council and deputy athletic director at Florida.

The transfer windows allow undergraduates to transfer and retain immediate eligibility once; they can transfer outside the windows but would need to wait a year to play. Graduate transfers have more flexibility, with a deadline to enter the portal by May 1 for fall sports and July 1 for spring semester sports.

The initial caps limited Bowl Subdivision teams from signing more than 25 players to scholarships in a given year. The number was 30 in the Championship Subdivision.

Those caps were waived in 2021 after the implementation of the one-time transfer exception and with many players taking advantage of the extra year of eligibility granted to those who played during the disrupted 2020 pandemic season.

Now the caps have been removed for good, but FBS schools will still be limited to 85 scholarship players on the roster and FCS schools to 63.

Finally, the council voted to eliminate or change some requirements for FBS membership, including raising the application fee for FBS membership from $5,000 to $5 million, effective immediately. There are currently 133 schools competing in FBS, the highest tier of Division I football.