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College golf notebook: A closer look at transfer portal, new rule

The battle for greatness: NCAA DI Men’s Championship Texas vs Stanford
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During the college golf season, will check in weekly to update what’s happening in the world of college golf.

Since its implementation at the start of the 2018-19 season, the transfer portal has changed the transfer landscape in college golf. It has simplified the process not only for student-athletes but for coaches; in just a few clicks, coaches can find out who’s available and immediately reach out to prospective transfers to gauge interest and recruit.

As one Division I coach put it: “It’s kind of like eBay for coaches.”

Browsing for transfers certainly has the feel of online shopping, but in all seriousness, the portal, now in its second season of existence, has been overwhelmingly positive.

Now, I get there are reservations. Shouldn’t a player have to honor his commitment? Isn’t making transferring easier sending the wrong message? Doesn’t it hurt the schools? My answers: no, no and mostly no.

Anything that benefits the student-athlete is good for the sport. The portal also just happens to be beneficial for all involved.

Before the portal, the transfer process was a mess, especially for the student-athlete. Players who wanted to transfer weren’t always sure which schools were interested, and schools weren’t always aware of which players were wanting to change schools. (The latter made it easy for some coaches to take advantage over others not “in the know.”)

“Now the student-athlete has options,” said another Division I coach, “whereas in the old days, if you wanted to transfer, you had no clue what schools had an opportunity for you.”

Considering the transfer portal isn’t public and is relatively new, here’s a quick explanation of the notification-of-transfer process:

  • Student-athlete asks school’s compliance administrator to be placed in portal, at which point the school has two business days to do so.
  • Once in the portal, the student-athlete’s information is available to every coach via the portal, although prospective transfers can choose to hide their contact info and contact schools themselves.
  • Transfers are initially listed in the portal as “active,” but administrators must change that status to “matriculated” if the player has officially transferred or “withdrawn” if the player changed his/her mind.
  • While in the portal, players are subject to their schools reducing or taking away their athletics aid. This is a positive for coaches concerned with having scholarship money tied up in a player who no longer wants to be a part of the team.

Last season, 74 men’s golfers and 64 women’s golfers transferred from Division I schools. So far this season, 14 men and 10 women have officially transferred, though there are several confirmed transfers that just haven’t been updated in the portal.

Forty-six men’s transfers and 31 women’s transfers remain active.

Transfers: UCLA, 'Bama busy; rule changes

The transfer portal was busy this winter in college golf while eligibility rules have changed this year.

Considering there were 10,000 players across all Division I sports who entered the portal last season, college golf has been relatively unaffected by the portal.

Why is this? Maybe making the transfer process easier on student-athletes doesn’t actually open up the transfer floodgates. Maybe for the most part kids are making good initial decisions.

Many would agree that both are true, but another factor is a new rule regarding transfer eligibility that went into effect this season.

The new rule, NCAA Bylaw, states that “a transfer student from a four-year institution, who has received a waiver of or exception to the transfer residence requirement (per Bylaw, is not eligible to compete at the certifying institution during the segment that concludes with the NCAA championship if the student-athlete has competed during that segment of the same academic year in that sport at the previous four-year institution.”

In other words, if a player transfers to another school during the season, fall or spring, that player must sit out until the following season. In the past, many golfers were able to transfer in the fall and play in the spring because of the NCAA recognized the fall and spring as two separate seasons. (A few years ago, Spencer Soosman transferred from UCLA to Texas halfway through his freshman year and competed in eight spring events for the Longhorns.)

Compared to the portal, the opinions on this rule change are more split.

Some coaches like the new rule because it helps prevent elite teams from poaching good players from smaller schools in an attempt to improve their national-championship prospects for the spring. Other coaches believe that if players can transfer freely then coaches should be able to find a replacement that can compete right away.

“New rule. Bad rule,” one Power 5 coach said.

But one argument for the new rule reasons that if a player is transferring, chances are that player wasn’t a key contributor anyway. Before the change, it was more likely that the mid-major programs would lose their best player who saw an opportunity to slot into the lineup of an NCAA contender.

Now, no matter the circumstances, players must wait. This gives them time to adjust to their new surroundings – city, school, classes, teammates, coaches. All of which they will have carefully weighed against a complete list of other options, thanks to the portal.

Again, another decision that favors the student-athlete.


New on College Golf Talk...

Episode 3: Steve Burkowski and Brentley Romine talk to Notre Dame men's head coach John Handrigan, discuss changes to the transfer process and talk about the top storylines entering the spring in college golf. Click here to listen to Episode 3 and all previous episodes.

The five

Results, stats and observations from the past week

1. Texas A&M kicked off its spring with its first victory of the season, winning the Sea Best Invitational by two shots over Florida on Tuesday at TPC Sawgrass’ Dye’s Valley Course. The 13th-ranked Aggies, no longer with a clear No. 1 after Chandler Phillips’ graduation last spring, showcased its balance in the final round as four players shot under par, including senior Dan Erickson and freshman Jimmy Lee, who each birdied four of their final seven holes to shoot 2-under 68 and 69, respectively.

2. The Gators, though, have plenty to be excited about. After finishing the fall ranked No. 42 in the country, Florida displayed why the spring may be a different story. John Axelsen continued to strong junior year with a runner-up individual finish, his second of the season. But the best news was freshman phenom Ricky Castillo getting his first college win after a fall in which he failed to finish better than T-15.

3. Continuing with the Gators, Tuesday’s finish brings them back above the .500 mark, to 35-34. Florida was one of four top-50 teams to finish the fall with a head-to-head record below .500. The other teams: USC (16-24-1), Illinois (24-28-3) and Oklahoma State (18-24-3). The Trojans moved to 25-25-2 after opening the spring with a T-2 finish at the Southwestern Invitational. Of course, the .500 rule dictates that should a team finish with worse than a .500 record after the completion of conference tournaments, that team is ineligible for postseason play.

4. It’s appropriate that the Kent State women fall fourth on this list as the Golden Flashes notched their fourth victory of the season Tuesday in Orlando, Florida. Kent State, ranked third by Golfstat, shot 13 under in the final round to pass Miami (36-hole leader, finished third) and pull away from Michigan State (T-2 after two rounds, ended up runner-up), winning the UCF Challenge by six shots. Four players finished inside the top 8 for the Flashes, including senior Karoline Stormo (T-4). Nine shots off the pace was Oklahoma State, which is coached by former Kent State coach Greg Robertson.

5. Two teams had to finish tournaments Tuesday without their top-ranked player. Arkansas senior William Buhl (46) had to withdraw from the final round of the Sea Best with an injury as the Razorbacks tied for 12th in the 14-team event. And on the women’s side, Illinois ended up 11th out of 16 teams at the UCF Challenge after playing the final two rounds without injured senior Tristyn Nowlin (42).

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Spring primer

Need a refresher before the spring gets up to full speed? Check out spring previews for men and women, where we take a look at the favorites, dark horses, top players and more from the best conferences in the country.

Tweet of the week

In case you missed it, here was Pepperdine senior Sahith Theegala’s winning tribute to the late Kobe Bryant, who died in a helicopter crash just two days prior to Theegala’s victory last Tuesday at the Southwestern Invitational, which was played about 10 miles from where the accident occurred.

On tap

The spring really gets rolling on the women’s side with the Lady Puerto Rico Classic and Northrop Grumman Regional Challenge, which each begin Sunday. The men’s slate is highlighted by the Amer Ari Invitational, set to begin Thursday in Hawaii, and the Big Ten Match Play, which starts Friday in Palm Coast, Florida.