When the NCAA instituted its so-called One-Time Transfer Rule in April of 2021, it was heralded as a harbinger of new freedom for college athletes. And thus far, it has more than lived up to that claim. However, as this article was published (February of 2022), the downside of free movement via the transfer portal – and its negative effects on high school recruits – was also starting to show. 

The Portal Is Currently The Pipeline

As noted previously, it seems early on that many college coaches are utilizing the transfer portal to build, or rebuild, their teams faster. That build-through-transfers philosophy is already trickling down to the world of mid-level high school recruits, as many recruits rated 3-stars or below have received fewer or even no offers. 

While that recruiting slowdown may not affect every athlete at every position, it does appear that many high school athletes with big school scholarship ambitions may be overlooked. If you’re not seeing much interest from bigger schools, you may want to consider options sooner rather than later. That’s because…

Coaches Aren’t Maxing Out Their Scholarships

Instead of awarding their full allotment of scholarships to high school recruits each year, it appears some coaches aren’t filling out their recruiting classes to see who might be available via transfer. It‘s been most notable in football and basketball, but it may become more prevalent in other sports as coaches choose to give themselves the option of adding more experienced players via the portal instead of recruiting. 

In the big picture, that potentially means fewer scholarships available for high school recruits at higher levels. It will likely be business as usual in smaller sports and lower divisions. But if you’re considered a fringe recruit with big-time, Division I dreams, you may have to work even harder to find the right opportunity for you.

Coaches Aren’t Developing Younger Players

For college players who want their shot at playing time, the transfer portal has been a dream come true. Coaches at many schools seem happy to welcome bench warmers and second-stringers from other programs. And why not? If they’ve been in college for a year or three, those players have shown they can handle the academics and, thanks to some time in a college-level workout program, their bodies are better developed than a typical freshman. That gives a coach an immediate talent infusion without the need to chase a recruit and wait for his or her development. 

But that advantage for coaches using the portal is also a double-edged sword. Younger players in college who may or may not have developed to their coaches’ satisfaction are being “encouraged” to enter the portal so they can open up scholarships for incoming transfers. For high school recruits, that means a coach’s promise of a four-year commitment and investment in your athletic and academic future may fall apart if you don’t develop to match their expectations or, as we’ve already seen, a new coaching staff comes in. 

Remember that an athletic scholarship must be renewed annually by the school. Early on, it appears many college coaches prefer the portal over patience to build their teams. That will put even more pressure on young recruits to step up earlier in their college careers. And it may also have a detrimental effect on high school recruits that are considered late bloomers.

The Upside? It’s Making Recruiters And Coaches Work Harder

Regardless of all the doom and gloom noted above, a college player’s ability to transfer is also causing coaches to reassess how they recruit and what they’re doing to retain the players they do sign. Ultimately, that could lead to more honesty from coaches on the recruiting trail and a greater effort to build – and maintain – a relationship with their recruits. The transfer portal talent market is also expected to slow down as the newness wears off and players – and coaches – realize that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side of the field.

Finally, remember that the One-Time Transfer Rule is still in its infancy and many coaches expect the transfer market to level out. Once it does, many recruiting experts predict things will also settle down on the recruiting trail. And, depending on your sport and the schools you’re considering, you may not even notice the difference and everything you’ve read above may come off as alarmist. But then again, there may be fewer scholarships and roster spots for high school recruits, and you may have to not only compete against not only other recruits but also existing college players, for a scholarship offer. Just remember that, though your pathway to compete in college will be completely unique to you, you’ll likely still have to work extra hard to make it a reality.

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