For those of you living under a college football rock, on October 15th the NCAA opened up what is now being called the “transfer portal.” It is a database of student-athletes who have given notice to their institutions about their intention to transfer. When the institution receives notice of said intent to transfer, the institution is then required to place the student athlete’s name in the portal within two business days.
The NCAA calls it a national transfer database. We get to call it a portal which is awesome.
Prior to October 15th, the student-athlete was required to get permission from their current school in order to contact another school if they wanted to obtain a scholarship after they transfer. It essentially gave all the power to the coaches.
Nicholas Clark a current member of the Division 1 Council, who is also a former college football player, said the following about the rule change:
“This creates a safe place for student-athletes to have a conversation with their coaches and makes the whole process more transparent,” Clark said. “This will clean the process up and give more influence and flexibility to the student-athlete.”
This is a great step in the right direction. It gives more power to the student athlete. Also the transfer portal appears to have streamlined a process that never needed roadblocks in the first place.
For the coaches, it is now another source of talent to pull from in order to fill out their rosters. Does your team need a kicker? Let’s go check out the transfer portal. What if your quarterback has graduated and you need somebody to step in?
With Justin Fields transferring to Ohio State, the last 4 No. 1 QBs in the ESPN 300 have transferred from their original school. pic.twitter.com/lmmPlseneV— ESPN CollegeFootball (@ESPNCFB) January 11, 2019
Justin Fields is the only one from the tweet above who was able to benefit from the rule change, but it shows that college football coaches will have options. The transfer market has gone from relatively minimal to absolutely necessary.
Even Nebraska has benefited. The Huskers have Darrion Daniels, a former Oklahoma State DT, as a member of next year’s squad. Nebraska needed help on the defensive line. Instead of depending on high school kids or junior college transfers, Nebraska brought in a player who played multiple productive seasons at a Power Five level.
While Nebraska can add players through the portal, they can also lose some as well. Currently Greg Bell, Justin McGriff, Guy Thomas and Branden Hohenstein are still sitting in the portal waiting for a new landing spot.
So with a new source of players for college football programs there is an appetite for information. We all want to know who is in the portal. Unfortunately as of this time and probably into the near future, that information is not “public.” By “public” I mean that you and I do not have credentialed access to the portal.
So when there is a demand for something and those with the control stifle the supply of what is demanded, a black market is created. Which is what we currently have at this point.
So now we get tweets like this:
Can confirm that Tate Martell is now in the NCAA transfer portal. He’ll begin to explore options outside of Ohio State — believe Miami and West Virginia are two schools that are worth watching.— Jeremy Birmingham (@Birm) January 10, 2019
From a source: Jalen Hurts' name is now in the transfer portal.— Barton Simmons (@bartonsimmons) January 9, 2019
And then we get to learn that former Ohio State Quarterback Tate Martell’s actual first name is Tathan. As a Nathan, I believe it is obvious there was a typo on the birth certificate because why go with Tathan when Nathan is so close! I digress...
Unfortunately we get to learn about this through a screen shot of the portal.
According to this screenshot via @SloppyBaseballs, it sure looks like Ohio State QB Tate Martell is in the NCAA's transfer portal pic.twitter.com/ZNxrOBXgWR— Brad Crawford (@BCrawford247) January 10, 2019
It is not a good look for the NCAA. Even Brett McMurphy is getting his bite of the cheese.
A look at the new NCAA Transfer Portal, where coaches can track free agents, I mean, transfers pic.twitter.com/rz2CA5DRr3— Brett McMurphy (@Brett_McMurphy) October 16, 2018
So now it is not the NCAA who decides if and when the public learns about who has entered the transfer portal, it is athletic departments and privileged members of the media. They get to decide that it is more important for you to know that Tate Martell from Ohio State is in the transfer portal and not Alex Wilde from South Dakota State.
Connor Tapp of 24/7 Sports reported that,
“While the transfer portal is only intended for use by schools and student-athletes, that has not kept the data in the transfer portal from leaking. In at least one case 247Sports is aware of, a school administrator has even given out their login details to a member of the media.”
Giving the public access to the transfer portal is not without a tremendous downside. If a player puts their name in the transfer portal it is actually their way to “put out feelers” to other teams to see if they have options. Just because they place their name in the portal does not mean they are required to transfer. They can always return to the team. This exploration would immediately become public information and thus there would be expected blow-back by fans. Because of the expected blow-back it would actually stifle the goal of the rule change.
However, from what I can tell not all college football players get to experience being incognito while in the transfer portal.
Texas QB Shane Buechele is in the transfer portal, source told @WatchStadium. @AnwarRichardson 1st reported Buechele informed Texas he wanted to transfer— Brett McMurphy (@Brett_McMurphy) January 17, 2019
It is the intention of the NCAA to protect the student athletes who want to see if the grass is greener somewhere else. However in doing so they have actually handed the baton off to others to determine which college football players get to be “outed.”
In an Utopian world the players could enter the transfer portal and the public would not find out until after they have transferred. I would prefer that over the current system or a system where the public has access to the transfer portal.
Since the Utopian version is impossible it appears we have two options. Neither option is great. Both are actually quite awful.
Regardless the information is getting out anyways. Information like this is extremely valuable. It is a commodity. This commodity is being traded in a black market behind closed doors. That does not mean anything nefarious is going on with the exchange of the information. It could be like any other type of information being funneled between athletic departments and members of the media.
The current system is intended to protect the student-athletes who want to research their options. How far that protection extends is currently not up to the player. It is up to coaches, administrators and members of the media.
Giving the public access to the information on the transfer portal is a terrible idea. However, letting a black market decide who gets to be “outed” is worse.