Football’s Transfer Portal Blocks High School Scholarship Hopefuls!

Sean McCormick
6 min readAug 24, 2022


Photo Courtesy: Keith Johnston, Pixabay

The tasks of a high school football head coach have always been many, and over the last several years even the coaches at non-traditional powerhouses in the sport are expected to send their fair share of student-athletes to the next level. Not every player, even those who shine in the Friday Night Lights, are meant to be granted the full scholarships presented by NCAA Division 1 FBS programs. It’s tough enough for coaches to catch the eyes and ears of FBS recruiters when they have an elite FBS-type to showcase, and now there’s a huge roadblock keeping scholarhips away from graduating high schoolers — the NCAA Transfer Portal.

Doug Ramsey is the head coach of the Elder Panthers, a noted program which is member of the always tough Greater Catholic League in Cincinnati. Ramsey has led the Panthers to a pair of OHSAA Division 1 State Championships, and taken two other Elder squads to the state finals. The coach, who reached the 200 wins level in 2021, has a lot to say about the effect the transfer portal is having on high school recruiting. Ramsey is quick to point to statistics provided by a premiere Ohio scouting guru, Mark Porter of

“He (Porter) always puts out how many players in the state go D1, and this year there were 79 Division 1 players that signed in the state of Ohio,” said Ramsey. “In the previous 10 years the fewest there ever was who signed was 114.” Ramsey also pointed to the extension of eligibility granted to current college athletes due to Covid-19. “You know, there’s still a bunch of guys who are hanging around the extra year. It’s really killing the ’22 and even going to be hitting the ’23 recruiting class hard.” The Panthers leader believes the NCAA should have tiered the numbers down for the next few years instead of dropping it back to the 85 scholarship allotment.

Ramsey has noticed fewer D1 recruiters coming for in-school visits lately. “It’s becoming more infrequent, and I think it’s because they are looking more at the portal,” said Ramsey. He points to three schools in the MAC who either have a new head coach or second-year coaches who didn’t fare well last season. “That would be Akron, OU (Ohio University), and Buffalo. Akron took 12 transfers, OU took two transfers but seven guys for JuCo ranks, and Buffalo took 10 transfers.

“So, what’s happening is everyone is trying to build right now,” continued Ramsey. “There’s so much pressure to win, and their thinking, ‘I can go get a kid from another school’ and that means they’re not recruiting high schools nearly as hard as they did three or four years ago.”

Numbers Don’t Lie!

The numbers put out by the NCAA regarding the transfer portal back up what Ramsey is stating. Looking at the 2021 figures for FBS transfers through the portal, there were 950 undergraduate athletes and 477 graduate transfers (the higher number here due to the Covid extension). The highest numbers of portal entries occur is in December and January — which coincides to when recruiters were busy a few years ago trying to finalize official letters of intent for graduating high school players.

54-percent of those entering the portal in 2021 enrolled at a new school, and 87% of those entered D1 FBS programs. 42-percent remained active. This translates into athletes still exploring D1 FBS options, or moving to a D2, NAIA or D3 football program. 12-percent of these athletes signed to play D2 and 1% moved to a D3 program. Four-percent of the athletes withdrew from the portal, most going back to their original college.

It doesn’t stop here. In NCAA D1 FCS programs 368 undergraduates entered the transfer portal in 2021, and there were 258 graduate transfers. 38-percent transferred with 56% remaining active (keeping options open, or transfering to lower divisions).

Mike Blaut is the head coach of Roger Bacon high school, Cincinnati. The Spartans are OHSAA Division IV and a member of the smaller school Miami Valley Conference. Blaut has seen a taste of FBS recruiting, as he coached running back Corey Kiner a few seasons ago. (Kiner was recruited by many SEC and Big10 schools. He played his freshman year at LSU, but has since entered the transfer portal and now part of the University of Cincinnati roster.) Blaut states how matter-of-fact FBS recruiters are now when they visit his school. “It’s just so blatant,” said Blaut. “The D1 schools come in and say ‘we have one scholarship available’ and they want to know right away if there’s a kid good enough.”

Blaut deems it a bad situation, saying lower division high schools are being treated as the bottom of the barrel as far as recruiting goes. “I had one college coach say, ‘Mike, I’m really sorry but we are going to the transfer portal first’ and they want a D2 or even a D3 kid with some experience who can help them immediately, and then they’ll go JuCo, then high school.” Blout said the portal has ‘hurt my kids bad.’

Blaut has had to address the lack of recruiting potential with several of his student-athletes. “The kids feel like they’re getting slighted. We’ve had a pretty good run at Bacon sending kids to colleges. Our program has like 16 or 17 kids right now playing college at different levels.” Blaut acknowledeges it’s going to continue getting more difficult for high school coaches. “I’ve currently got a couple of legit low-level D1 player-types on my roster, and they’re not getting any of the looks we normally would get from those size schools.”

At Elder, Ramsey is used to student-athletes choosing to go to the high school based on his team’s past success, and not just because of the on-field accolades. In Cincinnati, there are several parochial options for those athletes leaving CYO programs and entering high school. Ramsey notes how it’s hard to discuss and really no recourse to take. “What am I supposed to do? If a college doesn’t want to recruit your guys very hard, do I get mad at them? Do I say you can’t come in here anymore?” The state champion coach says ‘that just hurts us in the long run.’

As for speaking with parents, Ramsey has a personal story to tell. “What’s helped for me is that I had a son in the ’22 class who is a pretty good player, and he did not get a Division 1 scholarship!” Ramsey said he can explain to parents ‘it’s not me doing this’ and he can point to his son’s predicament, but it’s still frustrating. “There are a lot of deserving kids who are not getting that opportunity,” said Ramsey.

Trickle Down Effect

As the numbers presented can reflect, many of those FBS-type players leaving via the portal are securing roster spots with FCS or even NCAA D2 or NAIA football programs. “D2 coaches are losing their better athletes, too,” said Bacon’s Blaut. “That means those coaches will seek those D1-types who fall through the cracks. So, a true D1 player is taking a roster spot on a D2 team. So there’s just no room for high school players to move into that spot.”

Another point of emphasis for many student-athletes wanting to play for a Division 1 FBS program is to agree to a preferred walk-on status. Ramsey thinks those walk-ons will be passed over in favor of better athletes available within the portal. “Are they going to give a scholarship to a portal athlete instead of you, a walk-on? Absolutely.” Ramsy is a coach who doesn’t see a lot of positives being a preferred walk-on. “I tell may guys to go where they want you! I know Division 2 schools aren’t like a D1, but they’re giving you money to go there and play.” Ramsey adds there are on ‘guarantees’ a walk-on will ever play, and with the transfer portal that option may likely be going away.



Sean McCormick

Turning the ‘complex’ into the ‘understandable!’ In Coaching & Leadership there is one constant — WRITING!