The transfer portal + NIL + no serious rules = chaos

I’m not a Lane Kiffin fan but I think he’s right about this. I mean, when you look at how unregulated those two changes are you have to wonder, “What were they thinking?” Excerpt from the article:

OXFORD — Lane Kiffin is done ignoring what the transfer portal has done to college football recruiting.

“I don’t think people really say it this way, but let’s not make a mistake: We have free agency in college football,” Kiffin said. “The kids a lot of times go to where they’re going to get paid the most. No one else is saying that, maybe. But the kids say ‘This is what I’m getting here from NIL.’”

Over the last three years, there have been three major changes to college football that have created the mess that is modern recruiting.

The transfer portal was established in 2018, allowing players to declare a transfer and begin communicating with prospective coaches while still on campus at their previous school. This year, the NCAA passed legislation that allows players to transfer penalty-free one time in their college careers, removing the obstacle of ineligibility from transfer choices. And also as of this year, players can now be paid for their names, images and likenesses, allowing third-party money to legally influence players’ choices as to where they want to play.

Combine those three changes and there’s a lot of good for players. It’s good players can make money off advertising and self-promotion. It’s good players can transfer freely if they believe there are better opportunities to be had elsewhere. It’s good there’s a regulated place coaches and players can legally communicate in the transfer market without risk of violating compliance rules.

You also create a bit of a disaster when it comes to roster management.

“Right now you’re practicing for bowl games,” Kiffin said. “We had a player not here (Monday) because he’s still on his official visit to another place. Just really think about that. It’s very strange. I had a recruiting weekend this weekend where I had to fly out really quick to go see someone that’s at another school but is in the portal.”

Kiffin goes back to the free agency metaphor, but adds one important caveat. In NFL free agency, players sign a contract to play for the franchise of their choice. The NCAA still has no contract for transfers. Transfers don’t sign a National Letter of Intent like incoming freshmen do.

And, perhaps more crucially, teams aren’t contractually obligated to keep their recruiting promises to players.

“At least in the NFL there’s free agent contracts so they know what it is and they have to sign it, versus places saying, ‘Hey, when you come here you’re going to get this much money,’ and then when they get there, do they really get it?” Kiffin said. “It’s a new world.”

Kiffin said he and his staff try to stay out of conversations about what Ole Miss can offer from a name, image and likeness payment perspective. He said he can answer questions about how much current players earned this year and what opportunities are available, but he can’t direct any payment or any connection with potential financiers.

Let’s not pretend every transfer is only in it for the paycheck, though. There are plenty of players in the transfer portal because the coach who recruited them was fired or left for another job. Or because they were surpassed on the depth chart and want an opportunity to contribute elsewhere. Or because they want to move closer to home. Or play in a different kind of scheme or at a different position.

All of these reasons are valid. The problem is there’s no restriction on when transfers can happen. There are windows for high school and junior college players to sign with Division I teams in December and February. There are no such windows for the transfer portal.

Players can enter the portal any time they want and can join their new school within or outside the December and February signing periods. This creates situations like happened at Ole Miss this offseason where Utah transfer Orlando Umana entered the transfer portal in late June, committed to Ole Miss in July, got on campus in August and started at center from Day 1.

That kind of flexibility is great for transfer players. It’s terrible for teams and high schoolers. If you always need to save available scholarships in case you can add a game-ready veteran, you’re going to give out fewer and fewer scholarships to players who would usually be on the low end of your recruiting classes.

“Getting out on the road, there’s a lot of frustration with junior college coaches and high school coaches because they feel like kids that were in the bottom level of getting offers and going places at the bottom of classes now aren’t,” Kiffin said. “People are using them up on transfers. So now we’ve got high school kids with nowhere to go when they had places.”

“There are just a lot of things happening from what was initially a really good idea to help the kids,” Kiffin said.

I think Kiffin is responding the way anyone who is losing power would react. The more power to the athlete, the better, in my mind. These athletes in college football and basketball finally have a bit of control over their lives, and predictably, college coaches (not a group in general that appreciates not having all the power) are reacting negatively.


A little ironic for a college coach to be commenting on the chaos of kids moving from school to school and being motivated by money.


Point taken, and I should have mentioned that aspect of the matter. To me the problem is that when you combine the transfer portal and a very laissez-faire NIL setup, you’re giving power to well-placed boosters, not athletes. You’re setting up a situation where with a wink and a nod and some strong hints during recruiting, athletes will go wherever they can make the most money–during college! We have professional sports for that. There’s still something important about the notion of being student athletes. Besides, a full scholarship is a pretty big deal. Just ask anyone who’s trying to pay off a couple of hundred thousand dollars in student loans. I think the present situation, while giving power and autonomy to the most elite athletes, risks throwing the baby out with the bathwater. In other words, we give lots of power to the athlete, while leaving behind any serious commitment to their education, or to the integrity of the recruiting process.

Not that I feel strongly about this or anything. :wink:

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Yes it is. But he is a professional coach. He makes money from his profession. The athletes are students and are getting a free education, it’s supposed to set them up to make a living after they graduate.

Yeah, I know, I’m still partly in the Stone Age. Let me vent, and while I’m doing it please stay off my lawn.

This whole situation is going to get weirder before it gets cleared up.


Boomers: “Stay off my lawn!”

Gen X: “Stay off my xeriscape!”

Millenials: “I’m calling the HOA”


More freedom for the guys who do the actual work? Oh no!

This thread has very Dabo Sweeney vibes.

People who complain about kids transferring usually are thinking only of themselves and not the kid’s best interest. I’ve also never counted another man’s pockets. If he can make money, he should be able to. “It’s an advantage for the big schools.” Acting like the system didn’t already set up the advantage for them prior to this freedom for players.


I’m more worried about the kids getting screwed by shady NIL contracts than I am their exercising free agency.

Given the Billions of dollars flowing through the FBS level alone, the kids getting compensated for more than just an education…ok. What scares me is could a kid be on the hook to repay NIL money if the transfer. What are the NIL tax ramifications. How does NIL affect an athlete’s ability to qualify for BEOG or SEOG monies. How does NIL affect an athlete’s parents abilities to cover them under ACA.

Yes, this is the bureaucrat in me going into full analysis mode; but no one has actually figured ■■■■ out here, and I would hate to see these kids turned into indentured servants of the IRS (or worse) because there was no processes in place to protect them and their families.

I want all of them to be successful, just don’t want them to get irreparably burned.


If NFLers financial literacy is somewhat low, what about college kids?

I just don’t see how these deals can be worth so much for some of these stars. $1M? Crazy. Many pros don’t even have those endorsements.


The NIL deals are not a new thing, they’re just legal now. I wonder how they will evolve now that it’s out in the open. It seems like it will be a net positive but it’s going to be messy for a few years first.

As for the transfer portal, I love it, let the kids move around and find their opportunity, it’s great for the players and competition because it spreads the talent around. Much like title IX and scholarship limits prevented the big schools from stacking talent 3 and 4 deep at every position.

Utah is a small market but I don’t believe NIL hurts us because it was already being done by the big schools and now we can do it too. The transfer portal is great because Whittingham knows what type of player he’s after and knows how to develop talent wherever it comes from. After Whit retires we will have difficulty figuring it all out but transfers are good for the smaller schools. The biggest names may not come our way but overall the transfer portal will be a great pipeline for talent.

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I think a lot of them are new.

Built Bar paying full tuition for every BYU walk-on, and only in football, is definitely new. (And that’s what has the NCAA’s attention, not the $1,000 to scholarship players)


Yeah. Essentially making everyone a “scholarship” player.

“Hey, don’t worry that we have hit our scholarship limit, we’ll take care of you”


“I think a lot of them are new.”

You’re correct, specific deals are new, but I wasn’t saying that.
My point was, the practice of paying players is not new, that fact seems more consequential than the nuances yet to be ironed out.

It’s not consequential, it’s a known fact. What’s consequential is that paying players openly is now allowed. In the past schools faced serious consequences for doing that. Maybe you’re saying that payment has always happened, the NCAA didn’t enforce the rules, and at least now paying players is out in the open. I suppose that’s true. But I think the most consequential aspect of this is that monkey business by boosters has the green light. There’s absolutely no way NIL won’t be abused. The Built Bar payment of walk-on scholarship’s is only a mild example of what we’ll see. I think it’s a very bad thing for college athletics.

For clarity you think a bunch of walk-on players getting a scholarship is bad for college football?

We all know where that’s headed.

Unlimited rosters.

You know darn well a “scholarship” walk-on at Bama is a helluva lot different than a “scholarship” walk-on at Utah State.

You know if this is the interpretation of the NIL, a school like Oregon will just roll the Phil Knight treatment out for anyone they want.

It will be professional football.


Football has the cheapest minor league development system of all professional sports. It lets colleges do the work for them.

It used to be the NBA was right there with them; but given the development gaps seen in the players entering the league, and the need for overall better team depth, the NBA started the G League.

Baseball and Hockey both have had minor league programs for developing players for many decades.

Even the MLS has minor league teams for developing talent.

Given the costs of starting up and operating a minor league system, it is unlikely the NFL will ever set one up. With that noted, some believe the NFL ought to be providing some amount of financial support to college football for operating their “minor leagues.” What that would amount to and look like will take years to sort out. The reality is a significant number of colleges across the country end up subsidizing football to the benefit of the NFL.

NIL and the Portal offers some amount of “payment” opportunities to the players. Unfortunately it doesn’t generally address the reality of all professional sports - eventually the ball goes flat and you need to open a new chapter in your life. Football had the advantage that a student athlete could use their time in college to get their “Plan B” in place to make the transition easier. How NIL and the Portal will impact that remains to be seen.

It’s all too early to tell.

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Pretty obtuse reading of my post.

I’m suddenly reminded of the SMU Pony Express days of the '80s. Can you imagine how wild that show would be now?