College Swimming Has 3rd-Lowest Transfer Rate Among NCAA Sports

by Riley Overend 6

September 08th, 2022 College, News, Transfers

During a time of turbulence in the NCAA transfer portal, swimmers and divers have largely remained loyal, posting some of the lowest transfer rates last year among Division I sports with at least 50 transfers. 

Both men’s and women’s swimming and diving had transfer rates of about 5% for 2021, according to a public database now provided by the NCAA. The only sports with lower transfer rates last year were field hockey and rowing. In 2020, only rowing and women’s ice hockey had lower transfer rates than the 3% for men’s and women’s swim and dive. 

Last year, the portal helped guide nearly 10,000 athletes through the transfer process, up from almost 7,000 the year prior. Most of that growth can be attributed to a spike in graduate transfers, whose population nearly doubled (from 1,631 to 3,092) in part because of the eligibility extensions and one-time transfer exceptions permitted due to the COVID-19 pandemic. FBS football players accounted for more than a quarter of the total transfers last year. 

That trend was reflected in swim and dive, as well, with the number of total transfers increasing from 185 to 245. A lot of that growth is thanks to 46 graduate transfers compared to just four the year prior. 

The NCAA recently tweaked rules regarding its transfer process while rejecting a recommendation to allow immediate eligibility. Included in the reforms is a new policy requiring schools to guarantee financial aid to transfers through graduation, or until they transfer again or engage in professional athletic opportunities. 

The recent change should have a material effect on swimmers and divers next year. About one in five (17%) who had scholarships at their departing schools lost their financial aid upon transferring. That’s 80 total swimmers who would have received aid or perhaps been denied a roster spot due to financial limitations. 

Almost half (47%) of transfer portal entrants who were aided at their departing school transferred and kept their athletic scholarships. Meanwhile, 36% of transfer portal entrants who were aided at their departing school remain active in the transfer portal.

Swimmers and divers will now have a set 60-day window to provide written notice of transfer following championship selections in March. Historically, March has been the most popular month to enter the transfer portal, aside from last August when a record 68 swimmers and divers entered the transfer portal. Only 18 had entered the portal the year prior. 

Despite concerns surrounding “free agency” in college sports, the transfer rates for both men’s and women’s swim and dive are lower than they were in 2004. Notably, it’s not getting any easier for most swimmers and divers to find a new home in the transfer portal. Less than half (46%) were successful last year while 41% remain actively entered and 13% withdrew. That’s down from the year prior, when the majority (54%) transferred successfully after entering the portal.  

The transfer portal seems to have made a bigger impact on college football transfer rates, which have quadrupled at the FBS level from about 4% before its inception four years ago to 16% last year. 

NCAA Transfer Rates by Sport, 2021

  1. Men’s basketball – 31% (1,692 total)
  2. Women’s basketball – 22% (1,134 total)
  3. Baseball – 18% (2,126 total)
  4. Football – FBS – 16% (2,538 total)
  5. Beach volleyball – 15% (167 total)
  6. Men’s soccer – 13% (755 total)
  7. Men’s tennis – 13% (325 total)
  8. Football – FCS – 12% (2,538 total)
  9. Women’s volleyball – 12% (650 total)
  10. Women’s tennis – 12% (340 total)
  11. Men’s ice hockey – 12% (205 total)
  12. Softball – 11% (764 total)
  13. Women’s soccer – 9% (909 total)
  14. Men’s lacrosse – 9% (321 total)
  15. Men’s track and field – 8% (905 total)
  16. Women’s lacrosse – 8% (317 total)
  17. Men’s wrestling – 8% (207 total)
  18. Women’s ice hockey – 8% (63 total)
  19. Men’s cross country – 7% (327 total)
  20. Men’s golf – 7% (222 total)
  21. Women’s golf – 7% (162 total)
  22. Women’s track and field – 6% (864 total)
  23. Women’s cross country – 5% (310 total)
  24. Women’s swim and dive – 5% (266 total)
  25. Men’s swim and dive – 5% (198 total)
  26. Field hockey – 4% (75 total)
  27. Rowing – 2% (105 total)

*the NCAA does not provide transfer portal data for sports with less than 50 transfers

The transfers aren’t exclusively between Division I programs, either: 13% of swimmers and divers end up going Division II while 2% opt for a Division III program. 

Check out the full database here. It’s updated annually every January. 

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Lane Line Puller
2 months ago

Would love to see the rate of those who just quit the sport vs transfer. My guess is when college swimmers hit a wall, for whatever reason, they probably just say, screw it, I’m out, as opposed to transferring to try and find a more successful situation. Leave your school, your friends (which are most likely only other swimmers due to the time commitment required), etc to start over at another school to try and drop time, to what end?

Inclusive Parent
2 months ago

Interesting that in every single sport with the exception of swim & dive, the women transfer at a lower rate than men. In swimming, they are both listed at 5%, but are flipped in the list, so perhaps it is 5.3 to 5.5%, or some other insignificant amount. But it does make you think that availability of womens scholarship money in most sports makes transferring easier.

2 months ago

Wouldn’t know it by the way y’all expose every person in the portal LOL.

2 months ago

are they loyal or is it harder to transfer when compared between other sports? no good spots that much? they are all the same people, altho much richer when compared to others?

2 months ago

I think the university of Cincinnati makes of 35 of those transfers.

Reply to  Swimmersteve
2 months ago

What’s going on at Cincinnati? I have a godson on the baseball team and he loves the school.

About Riley Overend

Riley is an associate editor interested in the stories taking place outside of the pool just as much as the drama between the lane lines. A 2019 graduate of Boston College, he arrived at SwimSwam in April of 2022 after three years as a sports reporter and sports editor at newspapers …

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