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Andy Katz | Correspondent | January 17, 2020

New data suggests transfers in Division I men's basketball have been steady over recent years


Transferring in Division I men’s basketball has been commonplace for years. 

The reasons are varied — from playing time to a change in coaches to a need to be near family to simply seeking a better fit.  

The numbers show that men’s basketball transfers aren’t on the rise but instead have stayed relatively consistent over a four-year period. 

Extensive data analysis by the NCAA backed up the premise that transferring isn’t widespread but enough of it is going on to track. 

Just check out these basic numbers from 2019 to 2018: 

Number of teams that didn’t have any player transfer: 58 in 2019, 59 in 2018. 

Number of teams with one: 93, 94. 

Number of teams with two: 90, 78. 

Number of teams with three: 58, 55. 

Number of teams with four: 29, 43. 

Number of teams with five: 23, 22. 

Number of NCAA men's basketball transfers from 2017-2019

Meantime, the transfer process has been streamlined by the Transfer Portal. 

The way it works is a student-athlete lets the coach and/or administrator know about wanting to transfer. The compliance officer puts the name into the portal. Neither student-athletes nor the public has access to the names in the portal. 

Not every player who goes into the portal ends up transferring. Players can decide to go back, and some just pull their name out of the portal. For example, there were 1,066 student-athletes in the portal in 2018-19. Of those, 76 withdrew from the portal, 54 could not be found on a 2019-20 roster, 9 decided to go pro and at least 5 retired. Over the past three years, the number of confirmed end-of-season transfers has stayed relatively the same, with 689 in 2017, 704 in 2018 and 694 in 2019. 

One concern for coaches has been the waiver process and whether student-athletes should receive waivers to play immediately. There is a working group within the NCAA to look at possibly changing the waiver guidelines. The National Association of Basketball Coaches also is discussing whether to endorse a one-time transfer where players can transfer once over their career without sitting out, and that would include grad transfers. Currently, any transfer who wants to play immediately must go through a waiver process to seek an appeal to bypass sitting out a year. 

“As discussions continue regarding the base transfer rule and related waiver guidelines, it is helpful for key stakeholders to have accurate data to inform the ultimate outcomes,” said Dave Schnase, NCAA vice president for academic and membership affairs.

The working group is expected to have recommendations for the membership to consider later this spring.

About half of the transferring men’s basketball players stayed in Division I, a quarter went to Division 2 and a quarter went to NAIA, NJCAA or somewhere else. A concern that several coaches from one-bid conferences have expressed is players transferring up and out of their level. 

Going up a level usually means going to a school in a multiple-bid conference like the ACC, Big Ten, Big 12, SEC, Pac-12 or Big East. Transferring down likely means going to conferences that usually send one team to the NCAA tournament.

While transferring up a level is still happening, it’s not happening more. Once again, that number has remained consistent. 

Check out these percentages from the past four years: 8, 8, 8, 9 — that’s the percentage of overall transfers who have gone up a level. If you look specifically at just Division I, then the percentage is at 17, 16, 17 and 16 over the past four seasons. 

Most players remaining in Division I — about 60% — go laterally, while the number of players who transfer down has stayed in the 20% range. 

Grad transfers made up about 32% of transfers in 2019, and 34% in 2018. The trend once again is close to the same with the direction of these transfers over the past four years. The percentages of grad transfers who go up a level within Division I have been 29, 22, 32 and 21. Less than 22% transfer down a level, while 50-60% in the past two years have gone laterally.  

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