How does the NCAA transfer portal work?

Eight of UNLV’s 11 returning scholarship players have entered the portal this offseason


Wade Vandervort

UNLV forward Cheikh Mbacke Diong (34) chats with Joel Ntambwe (24) prior to the start of a game against UNR at Thomas & Mack Center Tuesday, Jan. 29, 2019.

Mon, May 6, 2019 (2 a.m.)

The busiest place for basketball news this offseason has been, without a doubt, the NCAA transfer portal. It seems as though players are entering and exiting the portal on a daily basis, and UNLV has been no exception — eight of the Rebels’ returning scholarship players have put their names in the portal since the end of the season and five are still in the portal.

So what exactly is the transfer portal? And how does it work? Here are the key details on how players use to portal to initiate the transfer process:

What is the NCAA transfer portal?

In technical terms, the portal is a website that acts as a centralized database for players who are interested in transferring. The website is not public; coaches and administrators for NCAA schools have access. Once a player enters his name into the portal it becomes viewable by coaches from every other school.

For coaches nationwide, the portal has become a one-stop destination to search for available players; for the players, the portal is a convenient way to solicit recruiting inquiries and generally explore their options.

How does a player enter the portal?

If a player wants to explore a transfer, he will provide written notification to his university’s designated administrator. That administrator will then gather the player’s pertinent information (email address, phone number, etc.) and enter it into the portal website. At UNLV, Eric Nepomuceno, senior associate athletics director for compliance, along with his staff, oversee that process.

Does a player have to inform his coach of his intent to enter the portal?

No. Once a player decides to enter the portal he can bypass his coach and give his written notification directly to the compliance admin. That’s a departure from the old system, in which players would have to request permission from the coach to be released from their scholarships. The coach would also have to grant permission for the players to begin a dialogue with other schools.

Can a player enter the portal and then decide to remain at his current school?

Yes. Several UNLV players have done this, including Amauri Hardy, Bryce Hamilton, Cheickna Dembele and Nick Blair. In the Rebels’ case, the players decided to enter the portal after head coach Marvin Menzies was fired in March. After fielding correspondence from other schools and meeting with new coach T.J. Otzelberger, they decided to remove their names from the portal and stay at UNLV.

At the same time, UNLV was not under any obligation to honor their scholarships and accept them back…

What happens to a player’s current scholarship when he enters the portal?

The risk for athletes entering the transfer portal is that their scholarship at their current school is no longer guaranteed. Once a player is officially in the portal his scholarship can be rescinded and offered to another incoming student-athlete.

The decision to continue honoring a scholarship is up to the school and can be decided on a case-by-case basis. At most universities, the head coach and/or athletic director would make that call. Nepomuceno said UNLV has not pulled scholarships from any of its players who entered the portal.

Are athletes in the portal still part of the team?

At UNLV, players in the portal still retain access to core student-athlete amenities such as medical treatment and academic services (tutors, advisors, etc.). Players are encouraged to keep up their studies and maintain their course work during the transfer process.

Sport-specific privileges, such as locker-room access, weight-room access and equipment/apparel are not guaranteed, however. The coach and/or athletic director decide whether to continue offering those “elective services” on a case-by-case basis; Nepomuceno said UNLV has continued to offer those services to its players in the portal.

“Whether it’s academics, whether it’s sports medicine, we’re not taking that away from them,” Nepomuceno said. “But should a coach say, ‘I don’t want you in the gym, I don’t want you to use the locker room, you can’t be here when we’re practicing,’ that’s fair game. Have we had to implement that? No. But within our policy it does give us the discretion.”

Are there any deadlines during the portal process?

No. The only “deadlines” that may arise are normal enrollment periods and other eligibility guidelines that apply to all student-athletes. Players can enter or remove their names from the portal at any time.

How does recruitment work for players in the portal?

Once a player enters the portal, his transfer profile can be viewed by coaches from every school. Schools are then allowed to contact the player in order to gauge interest and set up visits. But if a player has an idea of where he wants to go and wishes to narrow his options he can place a “Do not contact” designation on his profile, which bars schools from contacting him first. The player can then reach out to schools of his choosing.

How does the transfer portal apply to incoming freshmen?

High-school players who have signed a National Letter of Intent but have not yet enrolled at the university are not subject to the transfer portal. If those players wish to de-commit, they must request an NLI release through the school. UNLV signees Ethan Anderson and Josh Pierre-Louis both requested and were granted their release from NLI’s after Menzies was fired; athletic director Desiree Reed-Francois made the decision to release them.

Is the transfer portal here to stay?

Though it has been in place for less than a year, the portal has quickly become the new norm. Since its debut, the portal has become the central hub for football and basketball players with intentions to transfer.

The landscape has changed, and the portal appears to be working for players and coaches alike.

“I think we should have had a centralized tracking system for a long time,” Nepomuceno said. “I think what the student-athletes care about is the fact now that they have the right to essentially transfer at will. Under the old rule they were asking a coach, ‘Hey, can I have permission to contact [other schools]?’ The new rule is, they’re telling a coach, ‘I’m leaving, I’m transferring.’ I think what they really do like is the fact that they can now have the control in that situation.”

Mike Grimala can be reached at 702-948-7844 or [email protected]. Follow Mike on Twitter at

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