October of 2018: the month the NCAA implemented a new mechanism called the transfer portal, one that will have lasting implications on athlete transfers.
NCAA Division I soccer is known to have one of the highest transfer rates in all of college sports. According to the official NCAA website, men’s soccer had the third-highest transfer rate over the course of the last six years (women’s soccer had the eighth highest). Only baseball and basketball have had higher rates.
In each of the last three years, the percentage of men’s soccer transfers has gradually increased, finally cracking 20-percent last year for the first time since rates were first reported back in 2004.
With the recent implementation of the new transfer portal, that number can very well change–leading to even higher transfer rates in the coming years. The transfer portal is a system where student-athletes can register themselves to communicate with other schools about transferring and recruitment.
Before the portal, the NCAA had the “seek-to-permission” rule, where players had to speak directly to their athletic director and had to be granted the right to transfer. The issue with this rule was that some schools did not allow transfers and often times athletic directors would choose not to grant permission to transfer.
With the new rule, players cannot be denied access to register for the portal. “If a player wants to transfer out, we as coaches have no power to block students from registering for the portal,” said Marist Men’s Soccer Head Coach Matt Viggiano.
The primary reason student-athletes elect to change schools is a lack of playing time. But, “oftentimes players forget that playing time has to be earned, it is not simply given,” Viggiano said.
Then there are other factors such as inability to pay college tuition, trouble acclimating to the new environment because of academic work, or social life, all among the many nuances that come with being a student-athlete.
“If a student is not happy here [at Marist] or elsewhere, the portal provides a good opportunity for students to look at other opportunities. We want what is best for our athletes, ” said Marist Athletic Director Tim Murray.
Even though transfer rates are the third-highest for soccer, Marist has not experienced that throughout the last six years. “Our players can have honest, intelligent conversations with the coaches and we make sure our athletes know where they stand, and if they’re not playing, why they’re not playing,” said Murray. “It’s a credit to our coaches, that they give a good quality experience. Students enjoy Marist and enjoy being here.”
“In the majority of cases where we have had young men and women transfer, in many cases, they told me or their coach later on that they made the wrong decision and that they should have stayed,” Murray commented.
The tough decision to transfer, as well as Marist’s own transfer rates, can be seen in the transfer of Cameron Harr. A Marist Men’s Soccer player, Harr decided to transfer to the University of Virginia (UVA) in the spring of 2017 as he believed he was ready for a new challenge in Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) soccer. He spent two semesters at UVA eventually decided to transfer back to Marist next season.
It remains to be seen what will happen to the transfer rates. The new portal was only recently put in place, and only time will tell if soccer yields higher or lower rates in the coming years, as well as which other sports are affected by the new rule.
Edited by Dan Statile & Lily Caffrey-Levine