SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — It’s been a busy month for the transfer portal. 

Created in 2018 by the NCAA as a tool to help manage and facilitate the process of students seeking to transfer between schools, the transfer portal has been making more headlines this spring, both nationally and locally. Fans of both South Dakota and South Dakota State have felt the impact of the transfer portal in April.

Players have come in and out through the transfer portal for the Jackrabbit men’s basketball team, which played in its sixth NCAA Tournament in March. Yankton native Matthew Mors signed with SDSU after transferring from Wisconsin, while Summit League Player of the Year Baylor Scheierman recently announced he’d enter the transfer portal and reportedly received interest from nearly every major college basketball program in the country.  

The Coyote women’s basketball team, which reached the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament, saw two starters enter the transfer portal and leave Vermillion. Kyah Watson signed with West Virginia shortly after the Mountaineers hired former USD head coach Dawn Plitzuweit, while Maddie Krull transferred to Nebraska.    

“Certainly, there’s disappointment when your coach leaves and the player goes with that particular coach,” USD Athletic Director David Herbster told KELOLAND News. “I think our fans invest so much time and maybe just emotion into these teams and get to know the players that when they leave you almost feel like it’s a part of your own family that’s leaving.” 

Herbster said he often gets questions about the transfer portal and how it continues to impact college sports. He said it’s important to remember student athletes have always had the ability to transfer and described the transfer portal as the mechanism for players to transfer. 

“It’s nothing more than a website that shows which student athletes have submitted their information for a transfer,” Herbster said. “Coaching staff are now having to spend time and resources, monitoring the transfer portal.” 

Division I athletics in the NCAA went to a notification-of-transfer model for the 2018-19 academic year which gave students more power because the law requires schools to place the students’ name in the transfer portal within 48 hours of notification. 

Prior to 2018, if undergraduate students wanted to transfer in some specific sports like football and basketball, they’d first need permission from their coach to contact other schools. If the coach denied the students’ request, students could go to the athletic director, dean of students or appeal through a committee process. 

Even without permission, students could still transfer but they couldn’t be offered athletics aid at the new school. That all changed in 2018 with the rule change and creation of the transfer portal. 

Longtime SDSU football coach John Stiegelmeier said every school and every team has to set its own philosophies regarding the use of the transfer portal. 

“Are we going to try and upgrade our players and try and find someone better? Or are we going to use it like we do and try to supplement a weak area,” Stiegelmeier said. “There’s both kinds and I’m not saying one is right, but one is right for us.” 

How the transfer portal works

When a student athlete at USD wants to transfer, the school will submit the paperwork to the NCAA and list the students’ name on the NCAA database website. Herbster said the transfer portal website has ID and passwords for college coaches and college administrators and said there’s typically 6,000 or 7,000 names on the database for all sports.  

To meet the deadline for a one-time transfer to be immediately eligible for the upcoming fall and winter sports season, the student needed to be listed in the transfer portal by May 1. The deadline is July 1 for spring sports. 

Herbster said USD encourages all student athletes to have a conversation with his or her coach before reaching out to the compliance office. 

“Coaches don’t like surprises,” Herbster said. “All of a sudden, one of their players decides to transfer and they never knew about it, they didn’t know that there was an issue or they weren’t feeling good about their playing time or their situation. It’s a series of surprises.” 

Kyah Watson, a Rapid native, helped the Coyotes reach the Sweet 16 this year. She transferred to West Virginia, following former USD women’s basketball coach Dawn Plitzuweit.

Herbster said some student athletes may enter the portal thinking it’ll solve any problems or issues. 

“They just assume that some of the next day, someone’s going to point and click and you’re gonna be able to go to another team,” Herbster said. “It’s just not that simple.” 

Stiegelmeier said overall, he likes the benefits the transfer portal gives both college programs and student athletes. But like Herbster, context about the reason for the transfer is important. 

“For the guys that just get frustrated and hop in the transfer portal, I think that’s a tough scenario,” Stiegelmeier said. 

The NCAA is now collecting data from the first years of the transfer portal. 

In 2020, there were 5,072 undergraduate transfers and 1,631 graduate transfers. It increased in 2021 to 6,475 undergraduate transfers and 3,092 graduate transfers. Division I schools were 76% of the destinations for NCAA transfers, while Division II had 22% and Division III made up 2%. 

Herbster described the transfer portal as another challenge for all college coaches. 

“It’s probably more so a challenge right now in the football world and in the basketball space,” Herbster said. “Coaches are starting to learn it’s not as much developing a team as it is trying to manage a roster. And it’s kind of coming and going.”

Herbster said he’d like to see the NCAA provide data on how many students enter the transfer portal but then end up staying at the same school. That example played out at USD this spring when men’s basketball starter Kruz Perrott-Hunt entered the transfer portal but ended up staying with the Coyotes, who hired Eric Peterson as the new head coach. 

Herbster said there’s a difference from losing freshmen compared to upperclassmen who have more experience. 

“It’s really tough to replace them with freshmen,” Herbster said. “ So then that causes those teams to go out and get third and fourth year players, which means you have to hit the transfer portal.”

A give and take

Last year, Stiegelmeier said the transfer portal greatly benefitted the Jackrabbit football team with quarterback Chris Oladokun coming from Samford. With standout freshman Mark Gronowski suffering a season-ending injury, SDSU needed more depth at quarterback and Oladokun ended up earning the starting job. 

“He had a huge impact in our season,” Stiegelmeier said. 

Former SDSU quarterback Chris Oladokun takes a snap at practice. Oladokun transferred to SDSU from Samford.

While it seems there’s been more outgoing transfers than incoming transfers, USD has seen the benefits of student athletes transferring to the Coyotes. 

In football, former quarterback Chris Streveler played for the Minnesota Gophers and then transferred to USD where he led the Coyotes to their first FCS playoff win. In volleyball, Sami Slaughter played for Nebraska for two years and then transferred to USD, where she helped the Coyotes win the Summit League Tournament. 

“The portal giveth and the portal taketh away,” Herbster said. 

As Scheierman explores his transfer options for his junior and senior seasons, recent transfers from USD have shown the benefits of switching schools. 

“In Baylor’s perspective, he’s considered probably the best mid-major prospect in the country right now. He’s going to be highly coveted,” Herbster said. “And then if you’re a South Dakota State fan, you’re like, wait, what about us? We got you to this point, now you’re just leaving us.” 

Former Coyote standouts Matt Mooney and Stanley Umude were each graduate transfers to Texas Tech and Arkansas, respectively. Herbster noted both Mooney and Umude had good seasons and made deep runs in the NCAA Tournament. 

For Mooney, a 22-point performance against Michigan State in the Final Four helped Texas Tech reach the national championship game. He went undrafted in the 2019 NBA draft, played in the G League but made an NBA debut with the Cleveland Cavaliers. 

“Personally, I just want them to graduate and get their degree,” Herbster said. “That’s the most important thing for me. You want to make sure that if they’re going to transfer, they’re doing it for the right reasons. It’s kind of like the wild, wild west when you throw in name, image and likeness.”

SDSU’s Baylor Scheierman leads a team huddle during the 2021-22 season.

A new NCAA constitution 

The landscape of college athletics is constantly changing. Mark Emmert, the current president of the NCAA, recently announced he will be stepping down from his position when a replacement is found or by June 30, 2023. 

The NCAA is also in the process of developing a new constitution and there’s a transformation committee evaluating what it means to be a Division I school regarding the number of financial scholarships or any types of limitations on any type of resource. Herbster said between TV packages, networks, sponsorships and big ticket sales, the disparity has grown between schools in the biggest conferences and schools just joining Division I. 

USD has an athletic budget of roughly $16 million and Herbster compared that to the University of Texas, which has a $200 million budget for athletics. That kind of financial difference has raised questions about the role of student athletes’ name, image and likeness. 

Former USD quarterback Chris Streveler. Streveler transferred to the Coyotes after playing at Minnesota.

When the Supreme Court affirmed a lower court ruling in NCAA v. Alston in June 2021, it opened the door for college athletes to earn money. However, the lack of rules around name, image and likeness has already created some concerning problems. Herbster cited a recent example of a men’s basketball player transferring from Kansas State to Miami for $400,000 in NIL money and a car.  

“Kids are switching schools because they can get a better deal somewhere else,” Herbster said. “Players are moving solely based on money, yet the challenge that coaches face is they still have APR (academic progress rate) and other academic measures that they’re kind of identifiable with that particular program. Yet, the reason why the students are leaving us is financial.” 

Nationally, major college football and basketball coaches have expressed their dislike for the transfer environment and name, image and likeness rules. Alabama football coach Nick Saban told The Associated Press the current direction is not sustainable. 

Playing student athletes to attend a specific school is a violation under NCAA rules, but NIL deals have become more common. 

*KELOLAND’s Grant Sweeter contributed to this report.