Let’s get this out of the way up front: I’m a believer in a player’s right to transfer and therefore, all things considered, I’m a transfer portal proponent. I’m not a Neanderthal that thinks a commitment to a college should be a contract that indentures a player to one school for four or five years.
I’ve often told my podcast partner, Casey Cregan, players should be treated like any other college student. I mean, no one tried to stop me from transferring and, given my grade point average, I’m pretty sure they would’ve endorsed it.
Now that that’s clear, let’s speak a truth: The transfer portal could very well be hurting more players than it’s helping.
Of course, I don’t know this for a fact, but we can look at the data and make reasonable assumptions, can we not? The fact is, the number of players going into the portal and the numbers coming out make a pretty good argument that the portal is chewing players up and not spitting them out to other teams.
Admittedly, my research is not scientifically based and each player is a unique story. But looking at the quarterbacks who’ve entered the portal from January 1, 2021 through May 31, 2021, per 247sports, I found some alarming numbers. At least they’re alarming to me, but not many other college football fans appear to care.
I decided to focus on quarterbacks, because the overall number of players in the portal is overwhelming, I have a day job and quite simply everybody needs a quarterback. Or two.
Surely, there’s an incredibly hot market for these guys, right? Not really.
True, there’s no Justin Fields, JT Daniels or D’Eriq King in this group, but a funny thing happened on the way to a new school and the fast lane to “the league”. No one called.
Sixty-two (62) QBs entered the portal during the above time frame and the vast majority – 42 – were rated as 3 stars coming out of high school, as are the majority of quarterbacks that are recruited out of high school.
I focused on the 3 stars here because a) they’re the majority and b) you can pretty much guarantee they were on scholarship as opposed to the 2 and 0 stars.
Of the 42 three star quarterbacks that entered the portal through May, 19 have found teams. Of those 19, 2 went back to their original teams, and that means 17 of 40 have found new teams.
I’m not good at math, but I believe that means 57.5% are still in the portal for varying lengths of time, one since January 12th.
Makes you wonder what percentages for the other positions look like. You know, the lesser important positions in college football.
Twenty-three quarterbacks theoretically (or literally) gave up scholarships to places like Cal-Berkeley (3 of them!) and Vanderbilt to transfer to….well, no where.
At least not yet. And it’s mid-June.
This is the part of the portal that few talk about. Oh, we’re all over Justin Fields to Ohio State and JT Daniels to Georgia, yet we say nothing about guys giving up scholarships for maybe an eternity in the portal.
It’s almost like they don’t matter and are collateral damage.
It’s usually at this point that many say, “Yeah, but they can go back to the same school if they want.” Maybe. Maybe not. The fact is only 3 of the 62 (4.8%) have done so to date and from what I’ve been able to track down a school is only required to provide benefits through the semester in which the player enters the portal. After that there are no guarantees. (Happy to be corrected on this if you can provide info)
There’s a myriad of reasons for players entering the portal other than playing time and perhaps some of these guys would rather walk on or not play football than be a backup with little to no playing time (Austin Kendall).
That’s fine. But that’s not how it’s being sold. It’s sold as “Go somewhere you can play and make the league.”
What the majority of the players, even quarterbacks, are getting is left without a team and/or scholarship.
The good news is I’m of the belief that this will eventually work itself out in the years to come as players begin to understand that the grass is not always greener. But until then, it’s the Wild West and it’s going to be a tough life lesson for many of the non-blue chippers with big dreams and about a 60% chance of not getting a scholarship to another college.
In seeking more playing time, some have maneuvered themselves out of any playing time and maybe a college education.
In the end, players have the right to move. But just because they have that right, doesn’t mean it should always be exercised or it’s always the right or best thing to do.
I realize that the 3 quarterbacks who transferred from Cal since January may have other reasons for leaving. Maybe they weren’t happy in Berkeley and it’s not my place to say whether their decision is right or wrong.
But for every perfect ending like Fields, there’s 3 or 4 other guys who gave up a scholarship for a dream and maybe nothing else.
So while we’re celebrating the freedom of movement and opportunities presented to the few at the top of the food chain we need to remember there’s a cost to that freedom.
Right now that cost appears to be around 60%.