Love it or hate it, the transfer portal is changing the college football game.
If you're unfamiliar with the relatively new element to collegiate sports, no, the transfer portal isn't that contraption Jeff Goldblum built in "The Fly." But while it won't transport you — and an insect, in Goldblum's case — thousands of miles in a millisecond, it can get a college athlete from what one might consider a bad situation to a good one in days, weeks or even months, and it won't cost the kid a thing.
Proponents of the portal will tell you it offers the student athletes the rightful flexibility they've been denied for years. It provides a relatively transparent and easy means for athletes to explore their transferring options if homesick, seeking increased playing time, running from a coach, or simply second-guessing their decision to attend and play wherever it is they're currently attending and playing.
Opponents will argue it's just a system designed to acquiesce to "quitters" upset over failing to earn a starting role.
To be fair, like with everything, the truth probably lies somewhere in between.
People both in and out of the game have been arguing for years regarding increased flexibility for athletes, citing very real circumstances ranging from youthful indecision to coaching changes. But at the same time those same people would be foolish to deny that in some cases — and probably more than we'd like to admit — that flexibility provides an outlet for the type of knee-jerk, me-first attitude that seems to be growing by the day.
Kids who earn Division I scholarships are, in most cases, exceptional. Only 2% of high school athletes earn Division I scholarships, and only half of those earn full ones.
Those kids didn't just become elite — they've likely been that way their entire sports life, and they've been treated accordingly.
From the first time they picked up a baseball, threw a football, spiked a volleyball, or played any of the sports our kids play today, they were told just how good they were.
Coaches told them. Their friends and fellow students told them. The media told them. Eventually, college recruiters told them, and God knows their parents likely told them for years.
So, when "Jack" or "Jill" gets to college and rides the pine behind a better player for the first time, they don't always look inward for what they need to get where they need to go, but rather outward for an excuse for why they aren't there already.
And while real friends and family would tell them what they need to hear, often the maladjusted simply tell them what they want to.
Enter the portal.
Now, I'm not here to tell you it's all bad. Like I said, the truth lies somewhere in the middle.
If the coaches who recruited you, and with whom you've built a relationship over the past one, two or more years up and leave, like we recently saw at the University of Oregon, you have a right to take your ball and go home as well.
Additionally, if you're a program — again, like recently with the University of Oregon — with an incoming or current roster that has been depleted as the result of those same coaches hitting the bricks, you have every right to use that portal to replenish that roster with kids looking for a change of scenery. That's proven to be a valuable tool for schools like Oregon State, which don't have the cache or resources to entice elite high school talent but can get at least a taste of the talent as the result of a college player looking for a fresh start.
So, it really does work both ways.
If a coach wants to leave, he gets to. He always has. But now players get that same right and people are up in arms.
Personally, I hate that argument, because it comes without the acknowledgement of the benefits that come with time and experience. Coaches have, in most cases, earned their leverage on the backs of paying decades worth of dues, while those in their teens and early 20s quite obviously have not.
So, to compare the two is just a convenience for the intellectually lazy. But there are good arguments both for and against the portal, and to deny that is just stubborn.
Maybe you like it, maybe you don't.
Maybe it's good for the game, maybe it isn't.
But it is the future, and it is changing and will continue to change the game of collegiate sports — for better or worse.
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