PROVO — Instate backfield shuffles may be dog days of summer drama but it underscores the fluid nature of today’s college game.

Athletes are getting more of what they want. Their individual freedoms are more pronounced than ever before and the transfer portal has become a Star Trek beam-me-up device.

I guess that’s cool.

More power to them.

Coaches in the NCAA have enjoyed fluidity for decades. Their contracts and agreements have become token formalities rather than binding professional pacts.

Why not the players?

In a contrary view, TCU’s Gary Patterson says the new transfer rules teach the wrong lesson to college players, that when things get tough, you can just quit and move. He also said he’d like the names of the rule-makers preserved, so they can be blamed when the college game is ruined.  

In 2018, Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy said the transfer rule is giving in to liberal snowflakeism. 

Said Gundy, “People are noncommittal. We allow liberalism to say, ‘Hey, I can really just do what I want and I don’t have to be really tough and fight through it.’ You see that with young people because it’s an option they’re given. We weren’t given that option when we were growing up. In the world today, there’s a lot of entitlement.”

New Utah quarterback Jake Bentley considered one of top transfers in the nation
BYU football: Former Ute Devonta’e Henry-Cole seeking release from BYU, trying to transfer to Utah State
Former Utah State quarterback Henry Colombi follows Matt Wells to the Lonestar State

The latest transfer drama was fun to follow while it lasted. We may not be through yet, however. As long as there are camps yet to open, there could be shuffles. And if camps don’t start due to the pandemic, the barn doors could swing open some more.

It all started with Ute backup Devonta’e Henry-Cole transferring to BYU, an announcement he made back in February and executed after graduating with a degree from the university.  It heated up a bit in June when Utah basketball signee Caleb Lohner asked to be released from the National Letter of Intent he inked back in November 2019 and signed a new one with BYU.

It continued this month when Utah backup quarterback Jason Shelley, a proven sometime starter and veteran backup, announced he would transfer to Utah State to challenge Henry Colombi, the heir apparent to Jordan Love. 

A few days later, Colombi announced he was leaving the Aggie program, put his name in the transfer portal and is now headed to Texas Tech to play for the man who recruited him, Matt Wells, the former Aggies pilot.

Things continued to roll this past weekend when word broke that Henry-Cole, his seat in the running back team room at BYU barely dusted off, decided to join his friend and former Ute teammate Shelley at Utah State.

A little dizzy, indeed.

On the surface, USU looks to have benefited the most in all this shuffling, getting a talented Shelley and Henry-Cole, products of Utah’s recruiting ties to Florida and Texas.

Gary Andersen’s wearing a big Chicklets smile.

BYU could have used Henry-Cole but benefited big time in the Lohner decision in another sport with Mark Pope’s hoops team.

But Utah also benefited from the transfer of two quarterbacks, South Carolina’s Jake Bentley and Texas’ Cameron Rising, which may have had something to do with Shelley looking for greener pastures.

Bottom line is, hopefully all these moves make these players happy. When you’re happy, you are motivated. When you’re motivated, you are productive. When you produce, your team and teammates benefit.

Today, it is all about players finding their groove, their sweet spot. When things aren’t as sweet as expected, they jump.

Kind of like coaches have done for decades.

Good for them.

I wish all of these guys the best of luck. They deserve to finish with more playing time. After all that’s the main engine that’s driving the transfer portal.

This makes this COVID-19 pandemic drama thicker for these guys — their clocks are ticking.

We’ve already seen what the pandemic did to the careers of a lot of senior basketball players who were hoping to play in the NCAA Tournament, play in the nationals as golfers, track and field athletes, and the like.

We aren’t out of the woods yet.

The words of Utah Gov. Gary Herbert this week were encouraging as COVID-19 numbers appeared to flatten out and the state plans to open its schools for elementary, junior high and high school.

But, as in New Mexico, a governor can encourage shutting everything down at a moment’s notice and no athletic director, conference commissioner or governing body like the NCAA can do anything about it.

Plus, it’s an election year.

Hold on to your transfer papers, folks, this one will be going down to the wire whether we see anybody pass, catch, block or tackle at the college level.

Here’s hoping you all find your dream.