The rule change, which is expected to be permanent, has turned the college basketball off-season into something akin to N.B.A. free agency, with more than 1,400 men — about 30 percent of the players on all 357 Division I men’s programs — already in the N.C.A.A. transfer portal. Three years ago, just 882 male Division I basketball players entered the portal. On the women’s side, there are about 1,000 players in the portal — or about 18 percent of all Division I players.
Ordinarily, transfers would have had to sit out the 2021-22 season because of N.C.A.A. rules that apply to football, baseball, men’s and women’s basketball and men’s ice hockey. But the N.C.A.A.’s Division I Council approved a proposal granting first-time transfers in all sports immediate eligibility without restrictions. The change had been expected for some time, contributing to the extraordinary numbers of players in the portal.
The numbers may also be higher than usual because of accommodations made to account for disruptions related to the coronavirus: Any fourth-year senior who wishes to return to school and compete for an additional year will be granted the opportunity to do so, though that doesn’t guarantee a scholarship will be available. Generally, a player who graduates from one institution is often eligible to play at another as a graduate transfer.
Jason Setchen, a Miami lawyer who is an advocate for student-athletes, said he believed the transfer ruling was much needed.
“The one piece that was missing was the immediate eligibility component because you could enter the portal and transfer to a school where you sought a better opportunity, but you still had to sit a year, unless you had graduated,” Setchen said in a phone interview. “So it was really almost halfway to where it needed to be in order to give kids a real opportunity to be able to improve their position immediately.”