Coaches and the Commissioner Address the Transfer Portal Problem
The annual SEC coaches conference has led to many discussions regarding the way forward for every sport played in the power conference. However, as usual, football ruled the day for most as some of the nation's most high profile coaches made their way to Destin, Florida to discuss the many different issues they are facing. The SEC had a number of issues to address, including the sale of alcohol at games and the problems posed to coaches by the arrival of the transfer portal.
The number one takeaway for the SEC was the fact the conference is not going to eliminate the portal any time soon. The process for looking to transfer using the portal will also remain the same with each player from any SEC sport needing to ask their compliance office to be added to the online database. What was discussed, according to SEC Commissioner, Greg Sankey was the fact the portal is changing the way players make decisions about their futures.
For those not in the know, the transfer portal is basically an online database of players who hope to take advantage of the friendly transfer policies being developed by the SEC and NCAA to move schools. The process can be begun at any time with the player notifying their compliance office of their intention to transfer to a new college if the right destination can be found. By mid-October of 2018, over 1,300 players from football and basketball alone had entered the portal as they hope to find a new college.
Coaches from the SEC were largely in favor of the portal remaining in place with LSU Head Football Coach, Ed Orgeron being one of the few to speak out against the portal process. Orgeron himself transferred from LSU to Northwestern in 1980 and now states he regrets the decision. However, others believe the portal can be a blessing for those who are struggling to make it at a specific college and want to find an opportunity to play at another location. Tennessee Head Football Coach, Jeremy Pruitt sees things a little differently with the chance to explore the options on offer at other schools something he believes in. Pruitt himself transferred to Alabama in the mid-1990s. Coach Orgeron would explain his view is based on the more than 400 student-athletes who have registered but have failed to find a new home for their talents. Georgia's Kirby Smart continued to explain his belief the portal was an easy way out and could halt the development of some who had the ability to fight for their future within a sporting program.
The transfer portal has been a success for many, particularly the quarterback Jalen Hurts could see his hopes of being drafted into the NFL revived after he was deposed as the starter for the Crimson Tide by Tua Tagovailoa. The fall of Hurts from starter to backup has been hard on the quarterback who had been ranked highly by draft experts before Tagovailoa made the starting spot his own before losing to Clemson in the National Championship Game. As a graduate transfer, the impressive Hurts is likely to take the starting job for Oklahoma in the Fall and build on his early college career momentum.
Others have not been so lucky with their decision to place their name on the transfer portal database and found themselves stranded in a form of career limbo. The former Auburn quarterback starter, Malik Willis who did not want to lose a year of eligibility when he lost the starting job for the Tigers during Spring practice. Willis is still waiting on a call from an acceptable college to continue his career in a new location.
Some coaches believe the transfer portal has been a bad idea for players in all sports who are not exploring the negatives of the policy as they look to extend their career. Not only have potential starters such as Malik Willis missed out on the chance to fight for their role in an existing program, but others have departed one school believing they would be immediately eligible to play for another school. Although most who have entered the transfer portal has been made eligible, others are having to sit out a year before they can play for their new college.
Coaches have identified other problems with the transfer portal which have backed up their calls for new rules and regulations about various parts of the college sports experience. Obviously, the sheer size and success of football mean it is often seen as the testing ground for new rules in college sports. The transfer portal has raised an issue which has been bubbling under the surface of college sports for many years, which is that of how many scholarships each team has and how the transfer portal changes this policy.
For football teams, the issue of maintaining their 85 scholarships is key to the success of most teams with coaches at the SEC conference questioning when a scholarship can be transferred to another student-athlete. Coaches in the football programs of the SEC are still restricted to the 25 signings number which was introduced before the recent changes involving the transfer portal and the desire to transition quickly to the NFL. 25 signings could be a problem for some teams if they have a number of players fail to start in the first four games of a season and opt to join the throng moving towards the transfer portal.
This discussion about the transfer portal gave rise to another area of controversy, which is that of the number of student-athletes in football program looking to depart for the NFL after their third year of eligibility. Similar issues are expected to be seen in soccer programs with some SEC schools seeing players take the field at the 2019 FIFA Women's World Cup in France which could lead to the offer of professional contracts from Europe. If players continue to move around at such fast rates, SEC coaches believe the need for a change in scholarship regulations will be vital in keeping the playing field level for all schools in the coming years.
This Has Been An SEC Special Report
Photo of Destin, Florida by alex grichenko
Photo of Ed Orgeron by Tammy Anthony Baker, [CC BY-SA 4.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0)]
Photo of Jalen Hurts by Thomson200 on Wikipedia
SEC Map by Frank12, Monte17 and Pharos04 on Wikimedia Commons