College Football’s Transfer Portal Stats Analyzed:


7-minute read on transfer portal stats

The Transfer Portal has undoubtedly transformed the landscape of college football. Each year, an estimated 8,000 players opt to enter the portal to seek new programs to play for. AthLinkd delves into the depths of this phenomenon by conducting thorough research, tracking, and analysis of every single entry. The transfer portal stats generated are both predictable and surprising, and some may even provoke alarm. Nevertheless, comprehending the numbers behind this critical aspect of college football is pivotal for players, coaches, fans, and administrators alike.

All results presented in this article are drawn from AthLinkd’s 2022 transfer portal database.

Entry & Destination

College Football’s Transfer Portal Stats Analyzed: 2023

Between 2018 and 2022, college football transfers were allowed to enter the transfer portal year-round. However, the NCAA introduced transfer windows in August 2022. This limited FBS and FCS transfers to a 45-day winter window beginning in December and another 15-day window in April/May. These limitations do not apply to graduate transfers or transfers from D2 or D3.

Despite these new transfer windows, trends in transfer activity remain roughly the same. Mid-November to mid-January sees the peak entry period for all divisions, accounting for 59% of all transferring. March through May historically accounts for 21% of annual transfers. Around 20% of transfers (~1600 players) are expected to enter outside of the predicted 60-day window, due to graduate transfers or having waivers approved. The NCAA has released legislation in March 2023 to potentially combat this.

Tracking the success rates of transfer players is challenging. It requires relying on social media, roster posting, or signing days to determine the outcomes. Roughly 64% of Power 5 (P5) transfers successfully find a new school compared to 45.4% for Group of 5 (G5), 39.7% for FCS, 24.2% for D2, and 8.4% for D3. Overall, an estimated 60-65% of transfers will not find a new team, which amounts to approximately 5,000 athletes. Each division typically signs the most transfers from their own division, although the secondary place tends to shift one division higher.

ATI & Position

College Football’s Transfer Portal Stats Analyzed: 2023

AthLinkd Transfer Indicator (ATI) is a mathematical formula that measures a transfer’s value.  It takes into account many variables including program prestige, eligibility, experience, etc.  It is measured on a 1-100 scale in-line with the standard star-ranking system.  It is a reliable, unbiased way to capture the vague quality of an athlete who enters the portal.

A transfer’s ATI and when they decide to enter the portal is mostly uncorrelated.  Their ATI and success rate is very much correlated (unsurprisingly) as across positions, the average signee has a 7-10 higher ATI than the position average.  100% of 5-stars transfers (97.0+ ATI) and 92% of 4-stars (89.0+ ATI) transfer to an FBS program.  66% of 3-stars (79.0+ ATI) go FBS and another 26% to FCS.  FCS and D2 sign the majority of 2-stars (67.0+ ATI), 1-stars (53.0+ ATI), and non-ranked transfers.

Position is an extremely strong variable for success rate.  Wide receivers and defensive backs enter the portal at significantly higher rates than any other position.  Despite this, under 40% of them successfully find new schools though runningbacks and linebackers post similar or worse rates.  Quarterbacks, tight ends, and defensive linemen all see rates north of 40%. No group compares to offensive linemen, who find new schools at a rate of 50-60%.


Geographic & Eligibility

College Football’s Transfer Portal Stats Analyzed: 2023

Based on their hometowns, nearly 30% of the transfers in the portal hail from Texas, Florida, Georgia, or California, with each state contributing between 500 and 900 transfers. Other states with significant transfer activity include Ohio, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, Alabama, Louisiana, New Jersey, New York, and Illinois, each with 200 to 400 transfers. It is evident that the east coast dominates the transfer market, with only two states located west of Arkansas having more than 125 entries. The high-ATI rate is relatively correlated to the entry rate.

The years of eligibility remaining is a crucial factor that affects transfer success. On a scale of 1 year to 1 season to play (1/1) to 5 years to play 4 seasons (5/4), there is no group more represented than the other. The number of years of eligibility does not predict the likelihood of transferring. However, it appears to influence the transfer success rate. Players with more years of eligibility remaining are more likely to find a new school.

Experience, School History, and HS Grade

College Football’s Transfer Portal Stats Analyzed: 2023

Collegiate experience is predictably a strong indicator of transfer success. Approximately 5% of transfers had earned All-American or All-Conference honors, 22% had started games, and 43% had played in at least four games. While the success rate declined with each division, transfers with higher levels of experience saw a rise in success rate of around 200-400% compared to their divisional and positional average.

A transfer’s high school recruit grade was also a reliable predictor of success rate. Of the 300+ former 5-star and 4-star prospects, over 80% found a new school. Similarly high figures were observed for three-star and two-star recruits. This is unsurprising as most of these highly recruited players initially enrolled at higher divisions, which themselves have higher success rates. However, their actual recruit grade is still strongly correlated with their success rate.

Regarding school history, several dozen transfers had attended NAIA programs. Over 800 had come from JUCO, and more than 700 had already transferred from another NCAA school. A player’s school history did not appear to affect their success rate in the portal up until transfers had attended multiple NCAA schools. It could be theorized that eligibility requirements or concerns about deeper issues may be contributing factors in these cases.

Player & Team Performance

College Football’s Transfer Portal Stats Analyzed: 2023

The overall goal of a player entering the transfer portal is to find a better place to get their education and to achieve more athletic success. Although tracking academic success can be challenging, it is hoped that the fewer than 50% of transfers who find a new school are able to experience enhanced or continued academic success.

Transfers have certainly found success on the playing field. For instance, Caleb Williams, who won the 2022 Heisman Trophy, was a transfer. Many projected early-round NFL draft picks, including Jahmyr Gibbs from Alabama, O’Cyrus Torrence from Florida, Jared Verse from Florida State, and Christian Gonzalez from Oregon, were also transfers. Non-FBS transfers, such as Lindsey Scott Jr. from Incarnate Word and Joey Hobert from Utah Tech, have made headlines as well.

While mass exits may have negatively impacted some programs, several teams have benefited from bringing in transfers, including USC, LSU, and TCU. Notably, non-FBS programs, such as Jackson State, Concord, and New Haven, have experienced significant improvements in their programs thanks to transfer portal success. While high school football recruiting is still the primary predictor of program success, transfers are playing an increasingly important role each year.

There are numerous perspectives to consider when examining the transfer portal. Opinions vary regarding its place in the sport and how it should be managed. However, based on the current situation, certain trends are expected and prevalent. Moreover, there are also figures that are not publicly available. The experience, position, and the previous program of a player can play a crucial role in determining their success in finding a new school. Many players can benefit themselves and their new programs through the portal. Nevertheless, it is concerning that over 50% of players end up without a new school.

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