College football transfer portal, explained: NCAA rules, dates to know for 2023-24 player moves

The college football chaos has arrived. 

The transfer portal is officially open for college football, and there has been no shortage of prominent names featured. From Heisman finalists to five-star recruits, student athletes are taking full advantage of the option to transfer to other schools.

The portal offers a way for athletes to have a say in where they conclude their college careers. Most often, those who enter the portal are either graduate transfers with another year of eligibility, players at programs that fired or lost the head coaches who recruited them, or promising up-and-comers stuck behind on a depth chart, looking to get more reps on the field.  

Whether coaches agree with it or not, the transfer portal has become one of the best ways to bolster programs. This season alone, teams like Washington, USC, Oregon, Texas and Florida State all heavily benefited from procuring players from the portal last year. 

While a national champion has yet to be crowned for this season, many colleges have already begun the process of building their teams for the 2024 campaign, and it starts with addressing options in the transfer portal. 

MORE: Tracking all the quarterbacks to enter the transfer portal

Here are the rules and regulations fans need to know about the NCAA transfer portal. 

What is the transfer portal?

The transfer portal began in 2018 as a way for athletes to move between programs. 

If a student athlete wishes to leave their current school to go elsewhere, they must inform their program of their decision to enter the transfer portal. From there, the school has two business days to enter the athlete’s name into the database for the portal. Once in the portal, a player can begin the process of selecting a new destination, as interested coaches and staff members have the ability to reach out and start the recruiting process. 

Just because a player enters the transfer portal does not mean they cannot return to their original school. Athletes can join the portal, and then decide later to remove themselves if the interest is not there from other schools, or if the student changes their mind about leaving. 

When does the transfer portal open?

The transfer portal in the fall begins with the sport’s championship selection. For football, that means the portal opens on Dec. 4, 2023, the day after the College Football Playoff bracket was revealed and bowl games were announced. 

How long is the transfer portal open?

The transfer portal is open for a total of 30 days in the winter. Players have until Jan. 2, 2024, to put their name in the portal, however, they do not have to commit to a new program before the deadline is over. 

There will also be a 15-day period in the spring for players to enter the portal. That will be from May 1 to May 15. 

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With that said, not every player in the portal is restricted to that time frame. Graduate transfers — players who graduated from a four-year school and still have a fifth year of eligibility — can enter into the portal at any time. 

NCAA transfer portal rules

As expected, there are restrictions in place for the transfer portal. In addition to the time constraints, the NCAA has other rules when it comes to athletes transferring schools. 

As of April 2021, athletes are no longer required to sit out a year after transferring to a new school. Before COVID-19, players would have to not play for a season, taking a redshirt year where they would still practice with the team and remain on scholarship. However, due to the shortened/canceled seasons during the pandemic, the NCAA altered its rules when it came to the transfer portal. 

Players still must be academically eligible to compete. If they do not meet the academic requirements to immediately play at a new school, they will have to sit out, just as any other ineligible student athlete must. 

When it comes to graduate transfers, as mentioned, they are eligible to enter the portal at any time. However, there are still rules for the older players as well. In order for a grad transfer to switch schools, they must have graduated from their current college, have at least one year of eligibility left on their five-year clock and are enrolling in a graduate school that has their desired sport. 

The full list of rules and requirements by the NCAA can be found here

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