OPINION | NCAA transfer portal undermines integrity of college sports

The National College Athletics Association transfer portal allows college athletes to navigate the complicated transfer process between institutions. The portal gathers data on players for NCAA researchers and analysts all in one place so that institutions can make informed decisions when it comes to recruiting the best players for their rosters. Emily Vanmiddendorp | Sun News Daily

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The National College Athletics Association transfer portal has completely changed the landscape of college football. 

The portal is effectively an online database that streamlines the process of transferring from one school to another.

It came into existence in 2018 and is only half the reason why players are transferring so much now. With the use of the portal, players can transfer at least once, sometimes several times, without having to sit out a year and lose a year of eligibility.

If a player transferred before the existence of the transfer portal, they had to apply for a waiver for immediate eligibility to play.

Back in 2005, the University of Southern California’s former running back Reggie Bush won the Heisman Trophy as the best player in college football.

Later in 2010, Bush got his Heisman vacated for accepting around $300,000 in cash and gifts during his time at USC. That is now pocket change compared to what a top transfer portal player can make.

Now, Nebraska head football coach Matt Rhule said a good quarterback in the transfer portal costs $1-2 million

Ohio State University’s football program is estimated to have spent $13 million in the transfer portal already this year to have the best players possible going into next year.

The transfer portal has created two problems. The first is obvious. Top schools can just pay to have the best team. They have the ability to pay far more than smaller schools can afford. There is also no salary cap like in the NFL, and there is not a level playing field. Any school can pay any amount of money to get players to come to their school.

A new precedent has been set in college football. Giving money to recruits or their family is a serious recruiting violation that has repercussions, but now, schools can get around it.

Universities are not directly paying athletes, but they can guarantee transfers’ name, image and likeness, otherwise known as NIL opportunities, through trusts, alumni and various other connections the football program has. 

According to Christian Williams of Footballguys, Ohio State wide receiver Marvin Harrison was offered NIL deals that rival first-round draft compensation to stay at Ohio State one more year. Harrison ended up declaring for the NFL draft, but that is beside the point. Top schools can throw money at players in order to sign and keep players.

Ohio State bought the best transfer portal class because they have some of the deepest pockets in college football. That is why they were able to sign so many highly touted players. It is also why they were able to keep some, but not all, of their best players from entering the NFL draft. 

The second problem the transfer portal has created is the transfer culture that now exists in college football. 

Not every player transferring is a problem. Sometimes a player needs to transfer. Players could transfer from one school to the next before the transfer portal existed, but now it is just on a much larger scale.

Before the transfer portal existed, players did not always get immediate eligibility. If a player transferred, there was a serious probability that they would have to sit out a year before being able to play. But now, thousands of players in every sport and division are transferring.

At the first sign of struggle, players can transfer to another school and not worry about losing eligibility. If they do not get the amount of playing time they want, any player can just leave. On the flip side, a player who is one of the best can enter the transfer portal, and schools can now effectively bid on players.

On either side, players no longer have to sit out as a first-time transfer. Regardless of how many times they have transferred before, athletes this year will be allowed immediate eligibility as long as they transfer in the 2023-2024 academic year.

So programs, especially struggling programs, can see some benefit from the transfer portal. For example, Utah Tech has several football players transferring in. Head coach Lance Anderson emphasized getting players out of the transfer portal that could help the program.

Utah Tech is not alone. Many schools look into the transfer portal to give athletes second chances and to boost their program with players who did not work out at other programs.

The transfer portal has helped many athletes, but all the pros of the transfer portal pale in comparison to the cons. From now on in college football, whatever schools have the deepest pockets will be the best to attend for athletes.