On Monday, Isaiah Esdale became the 26th player to enter his name on the NCAA Transfer Portal since the start of 2021. According to Chris Anderson and Mike Casaza on the 247 podcast, 24 of those players were on scholarships. This led me to ask the general question “what in [world] In West Virginia? “.
What is the gate?
Let’s start with the year – what exactly is the NCAA Transfer Portal. A “portal” is nothing more than a database. The idea was that previously, coaches controlled the students’ actions and the students didn’t have as much power as they should. The process sought to return some of this power to the student-athlete.
The portal is a database of college athletes interested in transferring schools. All the student has to do is go to the compliance department and tell them that they would like to put their name in the transfer portal. Once this request is submitted, the compliance department must do so within 48 hours.
Once a student’s name has been entered into the portal, schools will have the ability to begin contacting them, provided the student does not put “no contact” in the entry.
If a student puts his name into the portal, he will not be there permanently. Student-athletes can remove their names if they want to.
The portal gives coaches the ability to sort entries by sport, name, conference, department, and school. It also gives them the ability to save entries to the Transfer Watch List.
There is a possibility that the player can enter the portal and go back to school. Mike O’Laughlin is a case in point, and there are many other players potentially upset about a coaching change, position reassignment, or a number of other issues that plagued college players that led the player to choose the gate. If the team wants to keep the player and the player chooses to come back, they certainly can. The school also has the ability to withdraw the players scholarship at the end of the semester, which is why the date a player puts their name in the gate is crucial. Putting your name in the gate now almost guarantees that you will leave while putting your name in the gate in September gives the team and player time to re-evaluate the situation and possibly correct any situation that may have turned south.
Complicated by all this the last 18 months. The COVID-19 pandemic has given everyone on the list a free year as games played in 2020 did not count toward eligibility. A player like Isaiah Esdale could have graduated this year as a senior, but with the extra year of eligibility, Esdale is allowed to play college football, if that’s what he wants to do.
Additionally, in April of this year, the NCAA granted instant eligibility for all transfers, repealing a decades-old rule requiring players to sit for one year upon their transfer. The previously imposed one-year delay helped deter many players because you either needed to burn your red year, lose time between play or worse, or lose an entire year of eligibility, going from sophomore to senior player with no junior stats. This didn’t stop teams from finding workarounds, from graduate transfers, and players who graduated with a bachelor’s degree and sought another school with a graduation program “not offered at their current school,” although this seemed too lenient. For example, Tate Martell was allowed to move while other players had to wait.
Starting in April of this year, the NCAA decided to allow all players a free transfer once in their college life and like all things in life, first time is free for everyone with a large number of players exercising their right to transfer. West Virginia State was hit hard with 27 players as of Thursday morning (December 9th) entering their names in the gate.
The argument or question is “Is this normal”. A lot of people will tell you that this happens around college football and if the phrase “every school has players who transfer” is true, but I don’t think many fans are concerned that West Virginia is the only school with players who transfer, more than we have a quantitative problem . 26 players feel like a lot. 26 players are a recruiting class. 26 players is a junior soccer team. Are 26 players in one year a lot? One way to compare the numbers is to take a look at the rest of the Big 12 conference. If every school is close to the number 26, the panic should subside.
Transfers per school 12 Big
These numbers are my approximate stats as of January 1, 2021, as this is a clear break in the calendar. It represents roughly right after the bowl game and during the next bowl game fairly accurately.
Looking at these numbers provides both context and anxiety if you weigh everything. West Virginia tops the conference. Tops by a large margin. Oklahoma is second in the conference and they are dealing with a huge, unexpected change in training. Nobody thought Lincoln Riley would step up and leave. The next closest teams, TCU and Texas, are ten players less than West Virginia. TCU has a change of training and Texas deals with a first year coach. Neither of these things apply to West Virginia.
Next on the list is KS and again, the first year coach. There is more change to be expected when a change in coaching occurs and during the first year of a coaching change as staff identify players they think do not fit their template and players decide whether or not they can work with the new coach. t recruit them.
After Kansas, you have teams that have stable training platforms (but Texas Tech!) that have seen fewer than 10 players leave. You could point out that the two teams with the fewest transfers, Baylor and Oklahoma State, just played in the Conference Championship game. I don’t think this is a coincidence. Winning tends to solve a lot of players’ problems, but talking about problems with mountaineers….
If you want to search through the transfer portal, you can. 247 Sports did a great job of compiling players who entered their names and if they chose a new destination. You can review that many players have left West Virginia but haven’t found much success in their new homes. This leads us to the question why exactly? Weren’t the players good in the first place? I refer to David Sales, a former wide receiver.
Sells joined the team under Dana Holgorsen and didn’t do much, getting a few passes as a rookie. He moved on to junior college because he still wanted to play quarterback. He threw for 1,600 yards and 15 touchdowns. If he had completed his dream and played quarterback, you’d probably say something along the lines of “The guy can’t even light up college prep, not a big loss.” However, Sells returned to the program in 2017, proceeding to capture 125 passes for nearly 2,000 yards and 33 touchdowns.
Coach Brown and his staff are in a tough spot with transfers and I wouldn’t do well if I didn’t at least mention how much COVID could play into this. Brown took over in January 2019 which resulted in a record change to the coaching roster. In the spring of 2020, COVID struck and many players chose not to transfer because the whole year was different than it’s ever been. The numbers you see this year may be due to the pandemic and process restructuring. If those numbers are still high next year, you will likely need to look at this on a different level, stop blaming COVID and find out what other factors are causing it.