'You'll have to be on your game:' What 45-day transfer portal means for college football

On3 imageby:Pete Nakos10/04/23

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Throughout the summer, college football coaches called for the transfer portal windows to move from 60 to 45 days.

They got their wish on Wednesday. The NCAA approved changes to the transfer portal windows in all sports, which was a widely expected move. In college football, 60 total days will move to 45. Opposed to a 45-day window in December, that will shrink down to 30 days. Later on Wednesday afternoon, the NCAA announced athletes on teams that compete in the College Football Playoff will be allowed to enter an additional five-day transfer window in January.

“We support it,” a Big Ten recruiting coordinator told On3 on Wednesday. “A majority of the student-athletes entering the portal entered during the first week of it being open. It doesn’t change how we operate a ton. We know those conversations with student-athletes before the portal opens will become even more important. Felt like last year the portal window dragged some.”

The portal is expected to open this winter at the end of the regular season, the day after the College Football Playoff field and bowl games are announced. The 15-day window in April is expected to remain. 

Last year’s transfer portal appeared to slow to a halt at times. According to data from The Athletic, more than 2,400 FBS scholarship players entered their names in the NCAA transfer portal from August 2022 to 2023. The data shows entries continue to increase year over year. 

Taking away the players who withdrew from the portal, went pro or retired from the game, the total for the 2022-23 cycle was 2,303 FBS scholarship transfers. Portal windows worked, too, as 82% of all transfers were initiated when the windows were open. 

Easier roster management for FBS programs

Now with 30 days in the winter and 15 days in the spring, there won’t be as much downtime to evaluate talent and bring prospects on campus. While it might make for some extra headlines, it will mean that recruiting departments will have to work quickly.

“It’ll just cause the chaos to be more compact,” a longtime SEC recruiter told On3. “You’ll have to be more spot on with your evaluations and communications and have everything buttoned up from an NIL standpoint. Fifteen days less isn’t all that hard to work around, but just means you’ll have to be on your game from the start.”

On the flip side, however, it could be a major win for some of the nation’s top programs in managing rosters. Athletes will have less time to make their moves, even if they make up their minds in October. With early signing day, coaches will have some more clarity on what their roster makeup will look like sooner. 

Added a Big Ten personnel director: “It’s a good thing. Helps with roster management.”

What does portal windows shrinking mean for NIL deals?

While coaches will continue to retool their rosters through the NCAA’s transfer portal, NIL collectives will remain a key piece in attracting and retaining talent. The move from 60 to 45 days will make the biggest impact on the December portal window, as one collective operator said they expect athletes to now make decisions in-season, as opposed to after bowl games. 

The NCAA prohibits pay-for-play and collectives working with coaches. But as one SEC collective leader said, it’s unavoidable in the current transfer portal situation.

“It goes back to, you’ve got to coordinate with your staff,” an SEC collective leader said. “You got to know who the players are and the caliber of players they are. You do have to – you can’t get in a situation where you think you’re done in the portal and you’ve blown your budget and X kid goes in. You’ve got to really be in lockstep with your coaching staff. Even though you’re not supposed to be. 

“How does the front office of an NFL team not communicate with their coaching staff? They’ve created this environment where it forces you to cheat. We’re talking about just staying in the game.”

The spring transfer portal window has proven to be a stress point for top-tier collectives, who have found some of their top athletes like to renegotiate contracts right before the portal reopens. 

 “Does it impact business? I doubt it,” an ACC operative said. “The action is pretty front-loaded. The spring one is a little more chaotic, especially internally because that’s when guys approach you and say, ‘Hey, we want to renegotiate.’ I’d love to make the spring one five days. That’s obviously not going to happen.

“I don’t think it will have a real big impact. All the guys that jump in the portal are going to jump into the portal. It’s the one immediately after the season, the one in which the most time has passed. It’s not like it’s going to sneak up on anyone. Kids who decide they’re not going to play in October are not going to not enter the portal because it’s shorter. To have a 60-day window is asinine.”