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What is the transfer portal?

You’ve probably heard a lot about college basketball and the transfer portal over the last couple of months. There are more than 500 Division I names in it right now, and that number is sure to increase as the offseason begins. But what is it, really?

To fill in the blanks, we got a sneak peek at the portal a couple of months ago and talked to a number of coaches about it.

So what is this transfer portal?

Essentially, it’s a database of every player who has interest in transferring from his or her current school. The portal includes every collegiate sport, so a basketball coach could theoretically track football transfers or field hockey transfers.

How does a student-athlete enter his/her name into the portal?

It’s very simple: They go to their school’s compliance department and tell them they want to be entered into the transfer portal. Some schools ask the student-athlete to tell the coach first, but once a player goes to compliance and makes the request, they have 48 hours to be entered into the portal. Compliance and/or the coaching staff can’t say no; they can only delay it for a day or two. At the end of the day, the transfer request has to be fulfilled.

Once a student-athlete’s name is in the portal, schools can begin to contact him/her — unless the student-athlete puts “do not contact” on the entry. Also, being in the portal doesn’t necessarily mean the athlete is leaving. A player can remove his/her name from the portal. Alabama’s John Petty did that earlier this offseason.

What’s included in the portal?

It’s sortable by a number of things: sport, name, conference, division, school. A coach can sort by most recent players to enter the portal and save names to a “Transfer Watch List.”

Each entry also has a “Transfer Tracer,” where coaches can find a player’s information. There are no phone numbers for the student-athletes, just email addresses.

Who has access to it?

A school’s compliance department and one coach from each sport’s staff. Not every assistant coach and head coach have an email address; there’s just one for a coaching staff. Sometimes it’s a generic one, sometimes it’s specific to one coach.

Do coaches like it?

Yes and no. One coach told ESPN that you still have to be cognizant and monitor potential transfers, to be ready once a student-athlete’s name is in the portal.

“By the time the kid hits the portal, it’s fair game,” he said. “Coaches have to know about them beforehand.”

One coach told ESPN he checks it at least 15-20 times per day; another said he rarely goes on there.

“If someone transfers, it’s on the internet,” he said. “If I’m interested, I follow up. What do I need to go on the portal for?”

There are also complaints about the technology and user-friendliness of the portal.

“The dumb thing about the portal is they put the kids’ email as a way to contact him,” one coach said. “What college kid in America regularly checks their email?

“It’s not user-friendly,” he continued. “You click on a kid’s name and then you hit the ‘back button’ and it brings you back to the main page.”

The general idea behind the portal was to make it easier for student-athletes to have their transfer intentions known. And it’s on its way to accomplishing just that.

“It does give a little bit more power to the player,” one high-major coach said.

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