Analysis: What does the transfer portal mean for USI athletics?


Photo by Emalee Jones

The men’s basketball team meets on the court during a timeout at the 2023 Homecoming Game Feb. 4 in the Screaming Eagles Arena.

Eric Reynolds, Sports Writer

Athletes have more freedom over their own experience than ever due to the introduction of the transfer portal. Since 2018, the NCAA has had the transfer portal as a compliance tool to help student-athletes transfer from one school to another. 

Currently, the men’s basketball team has five players leaving via the transfer portal: Isaiah Swope, sophomore guard, Tyler Henry, junior guard, AJ Smith, freshman forward, Gary Solomon, junior guard, and Peter Nwoke, freshman forward. 

A few players have already committed to new universities. 

Swope and Nwoke announced their commitments to their new universities via Twitter. Swope chose Indiana State University, while Nwoke chose Lake Superior State University

According to The Portal Report Twitter account, Henry reportedly received offers from various mid-major programs, including NCAA tournament participant Iona University

Smith and Solomon officially entered the portal according to Twitter posts, but it is unknown if they received interest from other universities.

Initially, the transfer portal required student-athletes to sit out their first athletic season after transferring to their new institution unless they were granted a waiver from the NCAA that allowed them to immediately compete. These waivers were a rare occurrence, and most athletes were deterred from entering the portal because of this “transfer year.” 

The process was changed when the COVID-19 global pandemic started in March 2020. Athletic events were canceled, and the NCAA had to come up with ways to compensate the players affected. Athletes affected by the pandemic received an extra year of eligibility to make up for the lost time. 

Another change resulting from the pandemic was the changing of transfer portal rules. In April 2021, student-athletes were no longer required to sit out a year when transferring to new universities. This resulted in a major uptick in student-athletes leaving their institutions and going to ones they felt were better fit for them. 

The men’s basketball program at USI has been greatly affected by this rule change. After USI announced they were going to Division I athletics, Stan Gouard, head coach of men’s basketball, had to overhaul the roster due to graduates and transfers leaving the team. During the 2022 off-season, the men’s basketball team brought in eight transfers to compete in this historic season. The same roster overturn will occur before the 2023-2024 season. 

Gouard has already started the roster reconstruction with the commitment of former four-star recruit Taelon Martin, previously at Eastern Kentucky University. Martin is a 6’5 guard who will be attending his fourth university after playing at the Junior College, DIII and DI levels at various different institutions.