I’m Done! The Impact of the Transfer Portal on Black Male Student Athletes

by Henry A. Stanford

The outcomes of Black male student-athletes (BMSA) competing at colleges and universities have been analyzed for years. Coaches commit a substantial amount of time to actively recruiting athletes, to see them leave within one year. Student-athletes are attracted to campus to compete and earn a college degree but have seen more failure than success. In recent years, the transfer portal has added to the complexity of retention and departure at every level in the National Collegiate Athletic Association. Student-athletes entering one university and departing within months create a conflict with retention programming. Overall, we have seen improvement, but the reality is that there are fewer Black male student-athletes graduating than any other racial group at predominantly White institutions.

Student-athletes enter college, dreaming of changing their and their family’s future. They are using the college opportunity to serve as a bridge to the NFL, NBA, MLB, Olympics, and other professions. Coaches and administrators encourage these dreams while bringing them to their campus. They provide stories of other successful BMSAs they have developed. Coaches focus on finding the best athletes to add to their programs with national championships or increased wins in mind. The marriage is clear around the idea of the BMSA helping the institution and the institutions developing the student-athletes for the next level. Often, institutions recruit student-athletes to campus and must re-recruit them to stay. Unfortunately, we see academics and holistic development fall to the side. Student-athletes select majors to remain eligible but do not to pursue degrees that lead to future opportunities outside of their sport.

The level of commitment is unclear for many student-athletes. They enter college thinking that athletics resembled high school. The time commitment would be the same, the pressure to perform would be similar, and the ability to do everything would be possible. They grow to understand that their thoughts are not realistic. The process of adjusting to a school and academics is different. Producing outcomes in your course work at a higher rate is required of you. Professors at Power Five universities usually lecture hundreds of students daily. The ability to build personal connections with these professors is difficult. Then, being away from home adds to the conflict. BMSA having to adjust to a new roommate, team, coaches, trainers, and campus community is real. Once they enter the training facility, they must compete to win their position, which is pressure. With an understanding of the transition process, those BMSAs that do not adjust will become isolated. With isolation, the journey goes toward grades declining, mental health hurdles, increase distractions, and eventually departing from the institution. These challenges are at every institution in the NCAA before even considering the impact of the transfer portal.

To play in college requires perseverance, dedication, and things in your career falling in line. Student-athletes devoting up to 50+ hours per week to their sport is standard. If they do not see the results at the rate they prefer, they eyes turn to the transfer portal.

Don’t get it wrong, the transfer portal has a place in college athletics. With the changes in coaching staff and academic programs, having this opportunity is outstanding. Experiencing coaching changes and institutions closing/dropping majors is a reality. The transfer portal allows BMSA to find a home that will benefit them. That is a way to support their journey. It changes the BMSA experience if done in the right way.

The transfer portal provides some BMSA with more playing time, exposure, better coaching, more NIL offers, and other factors. Unfortunately, there is a negative side in the road that current athletes are traveling. With the ability to change quickly from institution to institution, we are building a culture that changes universities’ ability to support student-athletes holistically. They will leave the program once you have created a connection and seen progress. There are cases when student-athletes have entered the institution with a low GPA or academic challenges. In these cases, they need additional support to be successful. They need stability and support to achieve the other goal of earning a degree. Part of the experience becomes blurred by the pursuit of greatness at the professional level.

The lasting impact of the transfer portal, we do not know. If you enter one university in the fall, transfer to a second university in the spring, and go to a third university within one year, how are student-athletes pursuing a beneficial degree and growing holistically? At neither institution has the BMSA developed relationships, consistency, or progress. It is hard to believe this process creates graduates who do not extend their college years or never finish. The potential lack of holistic development of BMSA is a concern. Supporting them in all aspects of their experience is tough to establish within the current intercollegiate landscape.

I believe that BMSA student-athletes have the freedom to find the right fit for them. Student-athletes must attend an institution that provides opportunities on the playing surface, in the classroom, and overall success. It is critical to train in great environments with facilities, staffed by transformational leaders will help them in all areas of personal development. This is important since institutions have dropped programs, lost funding, and eliminated majors. So, allowing them to change institutions like any other student makes sense. Using the transfer portal correctly is very beneficial. The fear is the current lack of rules have been abused without understanding the long-term effects on Black male student-athletes.

Dr. Henry A. Stanford is the associate director of applied leadership and an assistant professor of Leadership at Muskingum University in New Concord, Ohio. Dr. Stanford is a graduate of Ohio State University, where he majored in psychology. He holds an MBA from Tiffin University in Ohio and a doctorate in leadership studies from Ashland University in Ohio.

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Get the JBHE Weekly Bulletin

Receive our weekly email newsletter delivered to your inbox

Latest News

Recent Books of Interest to African American Scholars

The Journal of Blacks in Higher Education regularly publishes a list of new books that may be of interest to our readers. The books included are on a wide variety of subjects and present many different points of view.

Online Articles That May Be of Interest to JBHE Readers

Each week, JBHE will provide links to online articles that may be of interest to our readers. Here are this week’s selections.

The Eutychus Phenomenon

Part of the Eutychus phenomenon is viewing those with diverse viewpoints in the room as fortunate, but not vital contributors. The narrative that affirmative action scours the earth looking for inept candidates to give them what mediocre White people rightfully deserve is oft repeated and sadly, embraced by many.

Three Black Presidents in Higher Education Announce Their Resignations

Cal Poly Humboldt President Tom Jackson, Florida A&M University President Larry Robinson, and Morehouse College President David Thomas have all announced their plans to step down from their respective presidential appointments.

Featured Jobs