What an interesting college football off-season this is shaping up to be. College football players are wielding their newly found freedom with the NCAA’s transfer portal. Last summer, the NCAA announced the creation of a new transfer portal that would allow college athletes to pursue transferring to another school without first obtaining their coaches permission. This is the first college football off-season since the transfer portal became active in October. Several high profile college football players have entered the portal drawing much criticism and dissent, especially amongst coaches.
Some Coaches are Big Mad About the Transfer Portal
Coaches are up in arms about the growing trend of athletes using the transfer portal. They have argued that the transfer portal is ruining college football in several ways. Coaches have complained that the transfer portal is creating a sort of pseudo-free agency system. Coaches have even voiced concern for the athletes arguing that the transfer portal may be detrimental to the athletes' character. Specifically, they argue that being able to freely transfer will prohibit athletes from ever learning to persevere and overcome adversity.
Coaches have even expressed concerns about competitive balance. Specifically, the coaches argue that the flexibility in the transfer portal could lead all of the top talents to programs like Alabama and Clemson. Thus, eliminating competitive balance. However, this is not the coaches' strongest argument given the fact that the same teams have rotated in the college football playoffs since in its inception. The coaches have made creative arguments regarding the transfer portal. However, their real issue with the transfer portal is the lack of control they now have over the players and their ability to seek other opportunities.
Multiple Power 5 conference coaches were asked about the transfer portal. One said, " I'm comfortable with players being able to transfer without sitting out and I don't believe coaches should be able to restrict schools players can attend even if it is in the same conference. However, a lot of these kids who move are running away from adversity which can help them in football and life".
Before the Transfer Portal Coaches Were in Control
Prior to the creation of the transfer portal, the NCAA implemented the permission-to-contact rule. The permission-to-contact rule required athletes to obtain their coaches permission before seeking a transfer. If granted the permission to contact and allowed to transfer, the athletes would have to sit out for a year before being allowed to play at the new school. Thus, under the permission-to-contact system coaches essentially had unfettered control over the athletes.
The New Transfer Portal
The new transfer portal, while not perfect, has given some long overdue autonomy to the college athletes who provide the almost free labor that propels the billion-dollar college sports industry. College athletes can simply tell their school that they would like to be listed in the transfer portal and the school must list them within two business days.
The athletes will be immediately eligible to play at the new school as long as three conditions are met. One, the athlete be must academically and athletically eligible. Two, there must not be any opposition from the former school. Three, the transfer must be due to mitigating circumstances outside the athlete's control. Essentially the new transfer portal has given college athletes more control over their futures. As a result, some coaches are upset.
Another power 5 coach commented, "The transfer portal is going to ruin everything great about college football. It will become the wild wild west. If anything happens that a kid doesn't believe he can persevere through, he's gone."
The Real Reason the Coaches are Upset
The coaches concern with the transfer portal is less about the well-being of the athletes and competitive balance. The coaches true anguish has more to do with the fact that they can no longer control the opportunities the athletes are given. For example, coaches can no longer keep their second-string quarterback from seeking a starting opportunity at their rival school.
Furthermore, top coaches have to fear their second string talent will leave and become their competition. However, such a trend might actually help with competitive balance. Coaches are now in a position where they have to work harder to retain their players. The coaches do not like being that position. In short, the coaches are threatened by the transfer portal and the power and opportunities the portal has given to the athletes.
One coach said, "You have to treat your players right and have a real connection with them. That starts with honesty."