How NIL, the Transfer Portal Have Reshaped CBB’s List Of “Blue Bloods”

College basketball’s “blue bloods” are Division I programs that have a history of elite success, a strong following, and a national reputation in media coverage. Though criteria for who is considered a true blue blood team is still up for debate, the origin of the term is not simply based on polls or rankings. It is the combination of a rich history of success and nationwide fame.

The nine most commonly recognized blue blood programs in men’s college basketball are Connecticut, Duke, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, North Carolina, Michigan State, UCLA, and Villanova. On3 considers the four undisputed traditional blue bloods as Kentucky, Kansas, Duke, and North Carolina, while ESPN similarly considers Kansas, Duke, North Carolina, Kentucky, and potentially UCLA and Indiana as the top programs.

But should UConn, a top program with the most championships won in the last 25 years, be considered a blue blood as well? UConn men’s basketball coach Dan Hurley doesn’t seem worried about the terminology.

“Blue blood? We’ve got five nattys in the last 25 years, man. Eleven on the women’s side,” Hurley said. “We don’t have to be a blue blood, we’ll just be the basketball capital of the world in college.”

The Transfer Portal’s Effect on College Basketball

In the past, college athletes knew that if they were to transfer schools, they would have to sit out a season. However, the NCAA’s allowance of NIL deals starting in 2021 and the ability to transfer once without having to sit out a year has made it easier for athletes to move around for more playing time or more lucrative NIL opportunities.

In an interview with USA Today, former Villanova basketball coach Jay Wright explained why he believes the blue blood era is over.

“So, the transfer portal and NIL have really made it possible for anybody to invest enough to be a blue blood,” Wright said.

The debate has only become more cloudy with the addition of NIL and the transfer portal. Through those two factors, the gap between the top programs has been flattened. Thus, we’ve seen more shocking upsets in recent seasons during the NCAA Tournament. This year, we saw fourteen-seeded Oakland defeated third-seeded Kentucky.

While some of the traditional blue bloods in Kentucky, Kansas, Duke, and North Carolina appeared in the men’s NCAA Tournament, UCLA and Indiana did not. Through the utilization of the transfer portal to secure new talent, teams such as UConn, Houston, Purdue, Tennessee, Auburn, and Illinois all sat among the top 10 in the AP Top 25 college basketball rankings.

Within a week of the transfer portal opening, 555 D-I NCAA men’s basketball players had entered the transfer into it, according to FanNation. That is roughly 10% of players in Division I college basketball, or more than one in every ten players. While NIL may be one contributing factor to the influx of athletes in the portal, there are many other factors to consider.

As more athletes enter the portal with the hopes of finding a new program to call home, the talent gap between the blue bloods and the rest of college basketball may continue to get smaller.


  • Hailey Rissinger

    Hailey is a Sport Management graduate student at the University of Florida, specializing in Sport Law and seeking a certificate in Social Media. As a former Division I collegiate athlete, Hailey has a passion for helping athletes experience success on and off the field. Hailey is working toward a career in the NIL industry, helping athletes profit off of their Name, Image, and Likeness through developing their personal brand.

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