College athletes transfer for many reasons similar to professional athletes who sign with different teams -- they’re unhappy, not getting enough playing time or aren’t getting that much out of the school -- and for Saint Peter’s University, athletes are now a little more like free agents.
In October, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) decided to give players more freedom to explore other options before receiving their degree. SPU, a Division I college part of the NCAA, has already had some of its athletes put this to use.
“This decision has been awful,” said Brian Bates, a sophomore swimmer. “Because I will miss my swim team.”
Bates said he’s transferring because Saint Peter’s doesn’t have the film concentration that he wants. As a communication major, he’s able to take courses such as journalism, marketing or public relations.
He said the transfer process is “so easy,” despite the extra steps a student-athlete needs to take,
The NCAA’s new transfer portal allows athletes to put their names into a system, which grants the ability to speak freely with coaches from other schools. Prior to the change, players had to ask their coaches for permission to look for other options and needed a permission-to-contact letter from the athletic director or compliance; the form would then be sent to the athlete’s desired schools, according to NCAA rules.
“The portal was made to give student-athletes a little more power,” said Katherine Arcuri, associate athletic director for compliance. “To say, ‘I don’t need to ask for permission.’”
“However,” Arcuri added. “Then the NCAA came back and said, ‘Well, if you’re on a scholarship, you can’t have too much power because the school is providing you with a scholarship.’”
Division I schools may take away aid from student-athletes the semester after they are put in the transfer portal, Arcuri said. Arcuri -- who handles all athlete transfer requests -- also said players who want to be put into the portal understand they’re no longer on the team and will no longer have athletic aid.
Coaches and staff use the portal, student-athletes request to be entered into it.
But Arcuri said before granting an athlete’s request, she’ll talk it out with them to see if this is what they want and, for SPU Athletic Director Bryan Felt, he said he’s happy to do the same.
“I say, ‘Is this what you wanna do?’” said Felt, who’s consoled a few athletes. “‘We’ll help you…’ I don’t want them to stay here if they don’t really wanna be here, you know, that’s not what anybody wants.”
Felt added that SPU players have transferred because of many reasons such as unavailable majors, change of environment or not enough playing time.
Of the 10 teams, the swimming and diving team may have the most transfers, according to Felt. He also said the higher number may be because of their bigger roster.
Bates -- who is part of the swimming and diving team -- said he will transfer to Pace University to pursue a film program and continue his athletic career, but he thanks SPU for the resources they’ve given him over the past two years.
“I will miss Saint Peter’s and always hold it close to my heart,” Bates said. “SPU has helped with the networking connections I have made with MTV and NYC film companies, but in no way will I have a complete resume to thrive in the industry.”
This article was updated to include Brian Bates's new school, Pace University.