By Brogan Louden
Love it or hate it, the NCAA transfer portal has changed the trajectory and dynamic of college sports forever. Since its introduction to athletes in the fall of 2018, the online database has provided a more accessible form of communication between coaches and student athletes who are looking to compete for another institution.
When athletes have their name entered into the portal, unless they are marked as a "do not contact," any coach in the nation is free to reach out and talk to them. The NCAA Division I Council is continually making adjustments and changes to the rules and parameters that surround the transfer portal in an attempt to continue creating the best opportunities and experiences for student-athletes.
Originally, athletes who wished to transfer schools would be required to sit out for an entire season. The only major way that players would be granted immediate access to play was if they still had eligibility after graduating from their previous institution. Of course, exceptions, here and there, would allow athletes in special circumstances to transfer without facing any penalty or consequences. It's extremely important to recognize - especially prior to specific rule realignments - that some sports had more strict guidelines and less exception loopholes when
attempting to transfer.
In the spring of 2021, however, the NCAA granted athletes who were transferring for the first time in their careers access to begin competing immediately. Additionally, in 2022 they designated a specific time window for an athlete to put their name in the portal if they wanted to compete for a different school the following season. This window differs for athletes on fall, winter and spring sports teams.
Just as with any other set of new rules, the nuances and guidelines are constantly evolving at an attempt to build a better experience for athletes, teams and their administrations. The expanding opportunities that the transfer portal has provided has given these students athletes more freedom to make choices that will better reflect their best interests and goals.
In the summer of 2021, the NCAA approved the Name, Image and Likeness (NIL) policy, allowing collegiate athletes to profit off of their name, image and likeness, which had previously been banned. This implementation had a significant effect on the transfer portal and allowed many athletes to gain leverage. This also gave high-profile athletes who were looking to transfer the opportunity to scout schools and areas where they would be able to profit the most - based off of things such as resources, donors and fanbase, as well as many other factors.
Although NIL may not outweigh some institutional transfer decisions, it certainly opens up more areas of consideration for athletes. On the contrary, some individuals involved with collegiate sports are left with a sour taste in their mouth when discussing NIL. Many feel as if it detracts from what these athletes main focus and priorities should be, criticizing that it makes it harder for smaller schools or those outside of the top nationally ranked teams to compete due to budget and funding constraints.
Often times, however, NIL does not even play a real significant role in these
transfer decisions, as athletes would rather find a place that truly reflects their values, training style and personal goals. Regardless of these thoughts and speculations, athletes are able to utilize a plethora of resources to help them find the best fit where they will be able to grow and achieve what they hope to accomplish.
Chain Wrestling had the opportunity to reach out and speak with two of its Signature Athletes who recently transferred to hear about their overall experience with the transfer portal. Additionally, they discussed some of the key elements that went into their decision to transfer and how they landed at their new institutions.
"The transfer portal is definitely hectic. Coaches are pretty quick to call and be in contact and it can be overwhelming at first. It is a great opportunity for athletes to explore new options. For me, my reasoning for entering the portal was that I felt I needed a change. I only have one year left of college eligibility and wanted to make the most of it, giving it one last shot. I took visits to Michigan, Penn State, Ohio State and Wisconsin. I felt that Michigan was the place where I could be most comfortable, and it was intriguing what is being built in Ann Arbor. It is something special and I wanted to be a part of that.
Next, we got to speak with Izzak Olejnik. Olejnik, who achieved his first All-American status in 2023, spent the last five years competing for Northern Illinois University. Having graduated from NIU, Izzak will use his final year of eligibility competing for Oklahoma State. Here's what he had to say about navigating the transfer portal and his decision to become a Cowboy.
"Regarding the transfer portal, I think the biggest reason I entered was to give myself the absolute best opportunity to reach my ultimate goal of becoming a national champ. I felt like if I could surround myself with guys above me and below me who can push me and I can push them, we as a team can benefit from that and help each other reach our goals. I wanted to be able to be in a conference where I am seeing the best guys in my weight multiple times a year. I want to put my best against their best and make adjustments throughout the year to ultimately put me in a position to accomplish my goals.
My transfer decision had nothing to do with me thinking I outgrew my old school or thinking I was too big time. However, it felt like I needed to do this for myself to be able to work and train to reach my main goal. A lot of speculation goes into the transfer portal, but if you stay true to yourself, you can never make a bad decision."
This consistent evolution and renovation of bylaws passed and reinforced by the NCAA will continue to provide both present and future athletes the opportunity to utilize a wide variety of resources that can more positively impact their career and decisions.
Chain Wrestling was launched in 2021 to celebrate the heart and hustle of the everyday wrestler. The passing of NIL - along with the rapid growth of wrestling in the U.S. - provided a pathway for Chain Wrestling to design a platform to help collegiate and high school wrestlers, as well as senior-level athlete. This platform is specifically designed to help wrestlers build their brand, connect with fans, strengthen business acumen and generate monetary support as they continue their athletic and academic journey.
About the author: Brogan Louden
Brogan Louden, a 2022 graduate of Shippensburg University, is from the great state of Pennsylvania. Growing up his entire life surrounded by some of the best wrestling in the nation, he quickly discovered his strong passion and love for the sport. Now, he is looking to pursue a career in wrestling media to help bring more awareness and excitement to the sport.
Photo credit: The Record Online, file photo.