The college sports transfer portal has become an entertaining circus.
For some, it is “Paradise Found.” For others, it’s a signal mechanism — I’m unhappy and I’m gone. For still others, it’s a leap of faith that sometimes ends up in a black hole.
There are more than a thousand college basketball players who’ve put their name in the transfer portal to test who is interested in their talent. The NCAA created it in 2018 and it features a searchable digital database for coaches to peek at for prospective inventory.
Add to it that many anticipate the COVID-19 extra eligibility exemption — that anybody who played in 2020 can play another year — to perhaps include no penalty (sitting out a year) to transfer, and, well, you have the perfect gateway for a mass exodus of players.
Explaining the NCAA transfer portal pic.twitter.com/pyyl1SmDvj— TodayInSports (@TodayInSports3) April 9, 2021
If you are an advocate of player rights, this is your huckleberry.
The transfer portal gives some “rights” back to players as to the determination of their own destiny without penalty. After all, a coach can change jobs whenever he wants. NCAA rules penalize a player for leaving one program for another by forcing them to sit out a season,
Dick Vitale, the famous college basketball TV analyst lamented this past week on Twitter: “This transferring all over the place is going to destroy our great game. The @NCAA should think twice before officially making it that players can transfer w/o sitting 1 yr. The CHAOS going on is SICKENING! Only should allow players to transfer w/o sitting when a coach leaves.”
On the other hand, critics opposite of Vitale believe schools should guarantee four-year scholarships, if they don’t want transfers to be automatically eligible upon trading one team for another. It’s only fair.
Utah has had a steady train of players leave the program the past few years and in 2020 and 2021 it didn’t slow down at all, with seven this winter. Two, Riley Battin and Lahat Thioune, are reportedly coming back to Utah and new coach Craig Smith has gained one from the portal, Gabe Madsen of Cincinnati.
BYU’s Mark Pope had four players enter the portal in one week after losing to UCLA in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. Those include former starters, guard Connor Harding and center Kolby Lee, along with Wyatt Lowell and Jesse Wade.
Weber State reportedly got a commitment from Utah Valley grad transfer guard JJ Overton.
Utah’s Timmy Allen is ranked No. 6 and Utah State guard Rollie Worster No. 48 in The Athletic’s list of available players in the portal. Ute Ian Martinez (No. 2) and BYU’s Harding (No. 7) are ranked high in a ranking by Evan Miyakawa, a statistics doctorate candidate at Baylor.
For some programs, it’s a chance to get better. UNLV folks believe the eight UNLV players who entered the portal had a combined eight Power Five offers and the four that are coming in had combined 38 P5 offers. Read: improvement.
At Cincinnati, a reported rift with head coach John Brannen led to his dismissal after six Bearcats, including four freshmen, put their names in the transfer portal.
One of those freshmen, Mike Saunders, played at Wasatch Academy with BYU freshman Caleb Lohner and soon-to-be freshman Fousseyni Traore. Pope has already had three virtual visits with Saunders, who is also considering UNLV and Wichita State.
Stadium’s Jeff Goodman reported Pope has the attention of Washington guard Erik Stevenson and has made his narrowed list.
The Transfer Portal is completely changing the face of recruiting in college basketball.— Jon Rothstein (@JonRothstein) April 9, 2021
1. Will coaches still go out in the summer and recruit post pandemic?
2. Will mid-major programs stop recruiting high school players altogether? https://t.co/JOZkN9exYh
Asked to opine on this issue Friday, 247Sports’ Jeff Hansen observed colleges have made the portal part of their recruiting toolbox.
“The transfer portal has changed the game for the way college programs manage their roster, but maybe not in the way it appears on the surface,” Hansen said. “Players hit the transfer portal seemingly every day now and on the surface, that seems like players are really quick to give up on their school and look for greener pastures elsewhere.
“That’s true in some cases, but I think the transfer portal has also convinced college coaches that it’s easier to ask players to move on from their program. When you look at the number of players who enter the portal and don’t find a new home, it’s hard not to wonder if many of those players didn’t have a choice to enter their name into the transfer portal.”
If anything, the portal gives some rights and freedom and access to other coaches that the college football and basketball rules did not allow in the past.
“All in all, I like the portal and I think it gives some power to the players that they didn’t otherwise have,” said Hansen. “However, I do think coaches are adjusting. Instead of being a tool for players to evaluate their opportunities whenever they want, coaches have implemented policies that carry a lot of risk.
“For many coaches, when a player enters their name into the portal, they immediately lose their scholarship at their current school. So, I think the idea of ‘free agency’ is a little overblown, but I do think players have more control of their futures than they did before. That’s a good thing.”
Florida football coach Dan Mullen says the transfer portal will change college football forever. He agrees that a senior who hasn’t been able to start and could do that elsewhere should be able to transfer. But with a freshman or sophomore unhappy with playing time, quits and transfers may just curb development and cause a mess.
“It’s going to be a wild ride before we figure it out,” Mullen said on an ESPN radio show.
As of this past week, every team in the ACC, including Duke, North Carolina and Kentucky, had players in the transfer portal. Aside from Michigan, all Big Ten teams had the same kind of shifts.
If a Group of Five player turns out to be outstanding and puts in for the portal for a P5 opportunity, chances are, he might get a good look. It could become a feeder chute for blue-blood programs.
It’s kind of nuts.