Morning Constitutional: Is the Transfer Portal Good for College Football?

Justin Fields Dwayne Haskins Ohio State Football Buckeyes

Today’s Topic: Is the Transfer Portal Good for College Football?

Transferring has existed in college football as long as college football was a thing worth transferring to, but it’s never been quite like this.

Over thirty years ago, not seeing himself as a wishbone quarterback, quarterback Troy Aikman transferred from Oklahoma to UCLA. A few years after that, and for the same reason, Kent Graham left Notre Dame for Ohio State.

Transferring has been around for a very long time, and for almost every one of those years, coaches have been trying to limit transferring as much as they could.

The “year in residence” rule that forces players to sit out a year at their new school was done as a punishment and a deterrent, but painted as a “get your feet under you first before worrying about football” gesture of academic good will.

In 2006 came the graduate transfer rule, which allowed the “year in residence” to be bypassed for players who have graduated. Urban Meyer was the first well-known beneficiary of the rule, which was deemed “obscure” by the New York Times at the time, as Utah cornerback Ryan Smith transferred to Florida and started for the Gators as they won a national title that season.

Since that day, and even though the numbers are still quite small, graduate transfers have become the new normal, and I’m not sure there’s been a downside to it yet.

Another factor aiding transfers is the ability of social media to shame coaches who block transfers or won’t sign waivers granting immediate eligibility. Coaches can no longer block transfers, but they can still try to hold out on signing the waiver granting immediate eligibility. Twitter is undefeated in a lot of areas, and this is one of them. Every year, a coach or two tries to be strong, but eventually caves to the pressure of the vocal masses.

With the non-stop coverage, it may seem like the number of transfers is growing, but it’s actually been pretty steady for the last dozen years or so.

Could that be changing with the advent of the NCAA’s new Transfer Portal?

With a more user-friendly way of transferring, and a more lenient NCAA when it comes to eschewing the year in residence, transferring may be picking up steam, and what’s so bad about that?

As a person who enjoys the Hot Stove Leagues of the individual professional sports more than the leagues themselves, perhaps I’m the wrong person to answer this, but I don’t see a problem with it.

Fans may ask where the loyalty of players has gone, but I would change the wording from “loyalty” to “patience,” and there is probably nobody reading this who has grown in patience over the last decade or so.

We can have everything quicker and more immediate, be it movies, food, or 2-day shipping from Amazon. Everyone has less time. People are busier than ever. The loss of patience isn’t just a teenage issue, it’s societal.

So players are less patient than they used to be because patience is no longer the virtue that it used to be.

And there’s nothing wrong with that.

College is four or five years of a player’s lifetime, they should make the most of those defining years while they can.

Coaches will tell them that sticking it out builds character and the grass is rarely greener on the other side.

But those same coaches will also happily take a transfer at a position of need, not worried about any character that has yet to be built.

The transfer portal doesn’t change college football, it just changes the rosters a small bit. These are generally players who don’t think they’re going to play at their current school, so why should coaches or fans begrudge them a chance to go somewhere else?

Are most fans out there buying the jersey of a fifth-year senior who never made it as a starter and received just a smattering of fanfare on Senior Day? Are they even aware of a redshirt sophomore who has yet to make a tackle or catch a pass?

Of course not. And what percentage of the fans who scream about loyalty are also calling players every name in the book when they make a mistake on the field?

Where’s the loyalty there?

And let’s not try to paint coaches as anti-transfer, especially when they need players to transfer out every year so that they can get down to the NCAA-mandated 85 scholarship limit.

No, Ohio State doesn’t want to lose Tate Martell to transfer, and they didn’t want to lose Joe Burrow last year.

Transferring can definitely put schools in difficult situations. Burrow’s transfer put Ohio State in a bad spot a year ago. How did that difficulty end up? With Dwayne Haskins setting all kinds of school records and Joe Burrow becoming an LSU hero in the span of about three months.

I’d say that transfer worked out for both schools. I’d also say that’s what happens more often than not.

19 Responses

  1. I like KJS’s idea of 1 ‘free’ transfer for a kid and then a 2nd or subsequent transfer has the 1 year mandatory sit.
    I also like the idea of a 8 team playoff (and given the size of D-I, 16 is probably best since that’s what every smeggin’ other division of college football does).
    I’m also a fan of if a kid can profit from his image, voice, endorsement, then s/he should be able to do it without it harming eligibility. If they can profit from a different sport they should be able to do that as well.

  2. I would like to find that sweet spot where we avoid all-out free agency in CFB and where student-athletes’ essential interests are served – if that spot exists.

  3. I disagree with your general statement that “patience is no longer the virtue that it used to be.” It’s still a virtue, a very noble one, but few people value it or understand how to practice it. The mantra today is, “I want what I want – and I want it NOW! If not before!”
    Regarding the Transfer Portal, I believe it was first introduced in the second episode of the “Star Wars” trilogy, when Han Solo needed a faster way to travel from one galaxy to the next. Eventually, Starfleet Command allowed it to be trickled down to the NCAA, where “stars” can expedite their own transfers.

    1. If you ever reference Han Solo and Starfleet together again…….

  4. The transfer rule always seemed to be more about protecting coaches and teams than really caring about the student athlete. Many teams including Ohio State have stock piled talent for years. We know that our second string and third string players could often start for at least 80% of the teams in Div 1 football teams. It might bring caos if completely eliminated transfer rule but this may not be the case because of teams system complexity, team culture, etc. We hear about the high profile players who transfer but would be interesting to look at graduate transfers and see what percentage start for their new team right away or make a significant contribution. I understand players getting frustrated when sitting behind other extremely talented players. They want to play and watch team after team each week that they know they could be starting on that team or at getting significant playing time.

  5. As long as coaches are able to move freely from school to school I see no reason why players should not be allowed to do so as well.

  6. You make a commitment…..stick with it. Pretty damned simple. You want to transfer out…………..drop football entirely.

    1. Why punish them by requiring football to be dropped? Who benefits from that?

          1. 3 easy steps:
            1 – Ban football
            2 – ?????
            3 – Profit!

    2. Have you only worked at one company your whole life? What if you never got the promotion you felt like you deserved? You just stayed put and let someone else determine your future? Get a grip. This is by far your worst post and you’re notorious for really bad takes.

      1. BooHoo…another person with an empty head. MANY companies and organizations make their employee’s sign statements for that very issue. The company has every right….regardless of what limp brain liberals what to try forcing on them. Why should school be any different. I pay toward scholarships for student athletes at 1 particular school. If a SA decides he can’t compete and win the job and wants to run away to mommy…….BYE. Be gone and STAY gone. You were GIVEN an opportunity on someone else’s dime. Now go and earn it the old fashioned way.

        1. I’ve worked for two Fortune 100 companies and neither made me sign a statement that if i quit my job there I can no longer continue my profession. Now I run an organization of over 200 employees and at no time have I told anyone that leaves they have to find a new career. If I don’t have a spot for them to move up and they are ready for the next step, who am I to dictate their life to them?

          If you’re talking about a do not compete, those rarely hold up in court. Do you know why? Because you can’t force someone to learn a new skill set to earn a living.

          That’s great you donate a scholarship but you don’t own anybody. And stop throwing around “liberals” when this has nothing to do with politics.

        2. I think it’s odd to “boo hoo” somebody on one hand and then on the other spitefully demand a player who transfers be forced to give up the sport because they hurt your feelings by transferring.

  7. Coaches can no longer block a transfer to another school so social media is no longer needed to shame coaches into doing the right thing. Personally think the NCAA should let the players transfer one time and play immediately be it grad or undergrad.

  8. IMO the jury is still out on whether this will be good or bad for the sport. I do think we will be seeing more transferring in the future. I have no problem with an individual making decisions which they feel will be best for themselves. I also think this could potentially have a more negative impact on the programs that stockpile 4 and 5 star recruits…especially if the playoff expands and some players know that they can go to a UCF, a Cincinnati, or a Houston and still be able to play for a NC. We will see.

  9. It is amateur sports right? It’s the KIDS college career right? In a perfect world student/athletes would stay because they love the university, their friends, professors and classes. But the athlete/students may or may not enjoy all of that but want to play football! Coaches put winning ahead of the athlete/student. The top schools stockpile 4-5 star athletes in the pursuit of winning. The athletes in this stage of their life should be able to do whatever the heck they want.

  10. So the transfer portal is good because people with Twitter muscles enable it, and also because patience isn’t the virtue it used to be? What a PERFECT rationalization..
    I will say this- the anecdotal remark about Hot Stove Leagues is (although likely accidentally) a sadly accurate forecast. For any of you who used to like big time college hoops before it circled the drain, you may get some college football fans for company. Anything that makes a college sport more closely resemble the professional counterpart is almost certainly BAD. When this transfer stuff reaches the point where people realize it’s easier for a college player to transfer than it is for a high school kid to do so, it will be too late. (That’s okay though, I’m sure a national Twitter campaign will provide some much needed rationality to the subject so it can be fixed right away).
    Go ahead, bang away…

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