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At some point, the whole deal with the transfer portal in college athletics is about to turn comical.
Originally created as a clearinghouse to help graduate transfers with a single year of eligibility left find another school to team up with, the effects of COVID have now given college sports true free agency. Everybody got an extra year of eligibility, and everybody got the opportunity to go somewhere else without having to sit out a year.
It has created a combination of Sam’s Club, Costco and Amazon for college football and basketball programs: A one-stop shopping place for everything a coach could possibly want.
Which could be both good and bad.
I have no issue with everyone moving about. My first year at Virginia Tech, I majored in engineering, and while it was a fine endeavor that taught me how to drink so much coffee I could study until 3 AM, I decided after that year it wasn’t for me. I tried business for a quarter (this is why fellow Hokies call engineering “pre-business”) and then found what I enjoyed and was good at: Communications.
Back then, the program was in its infancy, so had I possessed the money or wherewithal, I could have chosen a school like Syracuse or Northwestern to further learn my craft, and no one would have cared. I wouldn’t have had to sit out anything, or be lectured on commitment, etc. I’d have just gone on and lived my life.
Being a relatively poor guy from an Italian family who was told “you can go anywhere you want, but if it costs more than $3,000 for all four years, that’s all we’ve got and the rest is on you,” I stayed in Blacksburg. I’m glad I did, but I had that option, and I think everyone should have it.
Athletes now do. That’s the good news. They have options.
But now schools do too. They may have wanted you for four years this past year, but now see there’s something better out there that is attainable. Suddenly, you’re the one in the transfer portal, because your coach has had a heart to heart with you saying you don’t fit into the team’s long-term plans.
I say it’s about to become comical, because fans are reminding me of that person you see at the warehouse club pushing the cart that looks like a huge metal pallet on wheels, overloaded to the gills. They grab everything they see that they like, end up paying $800 bucks, can barely get it in the car, then once home ask themselves “what am I going to do with all this stuff?”
As a Virginia Tech alumnus, I’ve found many of my Hokie friends – if given the chance – would sign enough transfers that there would be 50 people on the roster. I wrote last week about UMass’s Tre Mitchell, Doug Doughty wrote today about Pitt’s Au'Diese Toney, and this morning Georgetown’s 6-11 Qudus Wahab joined the crowd in the portal. Hokies on social media would take all three, plus UNC’s 7-footer Walker Kessler, who is also available.
It’s a stretch to think the Hokies will even get one of them, but if they could, Hokie fans would be kicking players off the current team immediately to make room. To be honest, coaches would too. These conditions allow one of those rare opportunities where you can transform your program to the next step with the additions of only one or two special players that previously weren’t at your level to obtain.
It's like when Virginia Tech football had made it all the way up the ladder to being in Sugar and Orange Bowls in the mid 1990s, then got Michael Vick. That created a season or two that put the Hokies in the spotlight for a decade, enhanced recruiting, and for several years, put them up with the big boys.
Imagine the Hokies next season with 2 additional big men and two physical 6-6 wings. You might have the same deal.
More likely, however, it’s going to be the “I want that…well, until I see something better” syndrome. I have several friends, for example, who have been married and divorced multiple times. They tell me they fell in love, only to discover a few years later they found someone else they liked better. After trying to explain to them that just because a pretty girl smiles at you, it doesn’t mean you have to buy them a house, it usually comes down to they should have figured out what they really wanted and then waited for it.
They then confess they have no idea what they really wanted.
I think college coaches are the same way. They want something better, but they don’t really know specifically what they need. Which causes the situation where blue bloods sign 5 stars, then a year later those 5 stars are in the portal.
Mike Young strikes me as different, and knows the difference between what he wants and what he needs. Whether he can get that is a whole different matter, but these are the days of high supply of quality players to go with high demand.
The next month will be interesting to see. Some schools will make that leap to the next level by acquiring the right players. Some schools will cheat to get them, too, just like they did when many of these players were in high school. And some will be like that guy who gets home from the warehouse club with his new prized possession, only to see a better deal on a better product on Amazon that night.
The winners will abide by the words of noted philosopher Mick Jagger: They can’t always get what they want. But if they try some time, they just might find…they get what they need.