College athletics is in a peculiar position. 

Although it is still structured as amateur competition, the NCAA has grown to resemble something akin to a professional sport. Many coaches and players have described it as the ‘wild west.’ While NIL (Name-Image-Likeness) has also affected the landscape, the another culprit is the transfer portal.

The transfer portal was introduced to the NCAA on October 15, 2018. The private database covers every sport in NCAA Division I, II, and III and serves as a tool for players and coaches to facilitate a transfer between schools. 

Once a player enters the transfer portal, the player’s previous school has no obligation to honor the player’s past scholarship. This one caveat has led to hundreds of players in a proverbial ‘no-man’s-land’, stuck in the middle with nowhere to go. 

At the same time, coaches are constantly mining the transfer portal, looking for upgrades to their roster. The one-time transfer rule, which allows players at any level to transfer one time without having to sit out a year, has allowed coaches to reshape their entire roster in one offseason.

When Nebraska men’s golf coach Judd Cornell took over as head coach in 2022-23, he inherited a full roster. Cornell acknowledges that the portal will need to be used in the future.

“It’s the world we live in,” he said. 

Cornell said he plans to use the roster to fill any holes in his roster, rather than rely on it for roster building. 

“I think it could be very useful for a school like us to add experience if we need a year to get through growing pains,” Cornell said. 

However, there are some reasons why he is hesitant. 

“There could be some issues from a culture standpoint relying solely on the transfer portal so high school recruiting is still very important,” Cornell also added.

Every coach sees it differently. 

 Deion Sanders, who was hired as the head football coach at Colorado on Dec. 3, has been portrayed as viewing the portal as an asset for a struggling program to quickly turn things around.

Evidence is in the unprecedented roster flip since he took over. 

46 players have left the Colorado program since Sanders took over. That is 17 more than any other Power Five school. At the start of the 2022 season, Colorado had 83 scholarship players on its roster. Of those 83, only 20 of them were still on the Buffaloes roster as of April 24. 

With the opportunity to transfer to a new school and gain immediate eligibility, an unprecedented era of player movement has emerged.

During December and January of the 2020-21 academic year, 950 student-athletes entered the transfer portal. There were also 477 additional graduate transfers in the same time period. That same year, there were 483 more that entered after the spring semester. 

Out of all these transfers combined, 41% of them did not find a new school, transferred to a non-NCAA school, or left their sport completely. In 2021-22, that number rose. According to, about 43% of transfer portal entrants after the season did not make it onto a roster for the 2022-23 season

This has become an unintended consequence with the portal. Oftentimes, these players never find a home.

Jimari Butler, a sophomore defensive lineman for the Huskers, entered the transfer portal shortly after Matt Rhule was hired as coach on Dec. 7. However, unlike most portal entrants, returned to his previous school after a two-day stint in the portal. 

After Butler sat down and talked with Rhule, he decided to return to Nebraska.

“I actually talked to my mom,” Butler said. “She told me to do whatever was best for me, and that’s a big reason why I returned.”

Butler’s case is a unique one. Not all coaches allow players to return to their respective programs once they enter the portal. It depends on the coach. 

At Nebraska, Rhule has said while the portal is a good thing for college sports, he won’t rely on it while building his roster. 

“I’ve been pretty straightforward that I look at the transfer portal as a tremendous opportunity for guys to figure out where they want to go,” he told the Journal Star. “Some people probably don’t make the right decision, some people do make the right decision.”

The portal has also led to opportunities to return home. 

Sam Griesel grew up in Lincoln and was a die-hard Nebraska basketball fan since he was 10 years old. However, he did not receive any recruiting attention from the Huskers during his time at Lincoln East High School. Griesel then attended North Dakota State, where he developed into an All-Summit league performer for the Bison. 

Griesel then graduated from North Dakota State in 2022 and sought an opportunity to play at a higher level. When he was offered a chance to play for his hometown Huskers, it was a no-brainer. 

“Nebraska is home,” Griesel said. “Once I had the opportunity to come back and play here, it was an easy decision.”

Griesel is a portal success story. He averaged 12 points per game, 5.8 rebounds, and 3.8 assists in 2022-23 for Nebraska. 

It was a perfect marriage, one that was made possible with the portal. 

“It was a dream to be able to play my last year at Nebraska,” he said.

As players like Griesel have gained as much freedom as ever before, coaches have been forced to adapt to the changing landscape. 

Regardless, the transfer portal is a tool that every college coach has to deal with now. The impact it has had on college athletics in such a short time is profound. The portal has completely changed college sports. Along with that, it will continue to drive change in the future.