Welcome to the most significant day in the history of college football’s transfer portal. Buckle up. It’s going to be a wild ride.

That’s really no exaggeration. Just ask the recruiting staffers throughout the country who have had Dec. 5 circled on their calendars for months. Some are legitimately excited to find out which players are going on the transfer market. Some are cautiously optimistic that they’ve done their homework and have a good plan in place. And many more are predicting absolute chaos.

The newly established transfer window is now officially open. Close to 500 FBS scholarship players have already entered the NCAA transfer portal or have announced their plans to so on Dec. 5. Nobody will be surprised when that number rapidly surpasses 1,000 by the end of the month. It might even get there by the end of the week.

In the 2021-22 academic year, the final total was 1,946 scholarship players — and nearly 3,000 total FBS players — transferring over a 12-month period. This cycle is going to play out differently in a few ways due to some key NCAA rule changes, but those reforms won’t make this offseason any less dramatic. In fact, they’ll likely lead to even more players testing their luck in the portal and switching schools.

Here’s what you need to know going into this frenzied first week of offseason free agency in college football.

 

Understanding the windows

At the end of August, the NCAA officially approved a dramatic change to its transfer policies.

Coaches were frustrated that they could lose a player to the portal on any given day, making roster management more challenging than ever. They tried using deadlines in the 2021-2022 cycle to reduce the chaos. Players had to put their names in the portal by May 1 if they wished to use the one-time transfer exception and be immediately eligible at their next school. But we still saw grad transfers and others make moves after the deadline, trusting they could easily get waivers to play right away.

In the interest of making this process more predictable, transfer windows were adopted for 2022-23. The window for players to put their names in the portal is only open for 60 days of the year. At the FBS level, the first window opens today and closes on Jan. 18. The second window of opportunity to transfer comes at the end of the spring semester, from May 1 through May 15.