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The Revolving Portal

NCAA Football: Arkansas at Brigham Young Gabriel Mayberry-USA TODAY Sports

First, let me preface this by saying the thoughts expressed below are mine and mine alone and may or may not be shared by anyone associated with I may stand alone on an island, but it is my island.

Second caveat, just for a frame of reference, is that when I fill out forms these days, I have to check the 55 and over box.

Growing up (think 1970s and 80s), when I fell in love with a Razorback – and there were many – I was secure in the knowledge that I could enjoy three or four years of watching them play football or basketball, getting signed souvenir photos, and saving my game programs with their name in it, and then they would graduate and leave me and the University behind and I would have to find another for the next few years. And the cycle would repeat, and repeat again. If I was lucky, the objects of my affection might go on to play professionally and I might get to catch them on a Sunday afternoon.

In other words, there was an order to things; a natural progression, if you will. Athletes came to school and, more often than not, stayed their four years and graduated.

But now, as we often hear from Lee Corso on Saturday morning’s “College GameDay”, it is more a case of “not so fast, my friend.”

The world of college athletics is no longer the same. Student athletes have more choices available to them about how, and where, they wish to compete and complete their academic studies. One of the tools available to them is the Transfer Portal.

Prior to the Portal, if an athlete wanted to change schools, for whatever reason, they could do so but, by and large, once they did so they had to wait out a year. It was a mechanism to, in my opinion, force the athlete to be thoughtful in their decisions and not a knee jerk reaction to an event like not getting enough minutes or being “coached” by his coach. For a dedicated athlete, the prospect of sitting on the bench for a year, watching others play, perhaps others not as skilled and talented, would be a sobering factor weighing down one side of the seesaw. They didn’t lose a year of eligibility, but they would lose a year of playing, of being seen by the pro scouts, of developing and growing. It was to be seen as deterrent.

It would make them think.

All that changes with the Transfer Portal. Now, the NCAA is going to tell me I’m wrong. They are going to tell me there are deadlines and if your name isn’t in the Portal when then the deadline rolls around then the student athlete that transfers after that will have to sit out a year and lose that year of eligibility.


Unless they can get a waiver. Or unless they can use the one-time transfer exemption. Unless, unless, unless….

There are cited examples of players entering the Portal and starting/playing games the next month. Workarounds.

And it doesn’t just impact the players. The coaches also have “play the Portal.”

It’s almost like going to a cattle auction and seeing who might be available to fit your scheme. What positions are you lacking in? Will this player fit your locker room culture? Is the player coachable or did they enter the Portal for all the wrong reasons? What do we need and how can we get it? And coaches have towalk a fine line between being, as a friend shared from a coach, a coach filling a roster and one being a “cad” (for lack of a better term) if he or she breaks a promise to a kid for because they found someone that plays better or decides not to transfer or graduate and stay another year.

Just in case it wasn’t obvious, I’m not a fan of the Transfer Portal, at least not in its current form. I know many will come back at me with how many great players have transferred to Arkansas through the Portal and made our teams so much better! And haven’t I loved watching them!

I can’t argue that that might not be true. But I want to ask this question – at what cost?

Are coaches (and this is not aimed at ANY of the Arkansas coaches – hear me on that!) sacrificing loyal student athletes on the altar of a National Championship? Are teams being built with players that enter the Portal because they have bought into their own hype, their egos stroked by family and friends that keep telling them they are all that and a bag of chips? Do players who dreamed their entire lives of being a {fill in the blank of your favorite mascot} being pushed aside after a year or more of playing for someone who decided last month they wanted to be a {fill in the blank with your favorite mascot}?

Are the inmates running the asylum?

I don’t have answers. I’m only a fan. I just find it hard,sometimes, to have the same level of excitement I felt about a team as I did when I was younger because now they’re here and then they’re gone. May go pro, may transfer out, may transfer in but nothing is the same year in and year out.

No natural progression. Just a revolving Portal.