The Transfer Portal: Choices Without Consequences

It’s said “better to remain silent and thought a fool than to open your mouth and prove it.” That’s usually great advice to follow, the prudent course for most but I’m unlike most.

It seems, from a fan’s perspective, at least a Clemson fans perspective, this rule, this human transporter is a one way street. While there’s a lot of good in theory surrounding the transfer portal, it has become something else and it’s time to look deeper.

I’m not a technical kind of guy. The finer points and the intricate details of the transfer portal are things I can’t wrap my head around. What I do know, the rules of transfer eligibility for the student athlete have changed. The portal has always existed but for the athlete there was a clause that meant if they were unhappy in their initial choice of schools they qualified for a onetime transfer but they had to sit out the following season with a few hardship exceptions.

It was this aspect of the portal, a consequence of the athlete’s decision to move on, that seemed to make sense. I understand not every place is going to appeal to every recruit and there should be a structured avenue available to them to seek and find a place that better suits them and their talents, as everyone has the right to determine their own destiny. However, now things changed dramatically. The one year mandatory sit out requirement has been dropped.

Here’s where the portal has changed the entire landscape of college athletics. In a generation of young people that seek immediate gratification, this offers the ability to quit on their team and teammates in mid-season and for me, there’s just something disquieting about that. In golf this is known as a “mulligan,” a do-over, in Monopoly, a get out of jail free card. This creates a de facto free agency and that’s just not good for amateur sports.

While I completely understand it’s almost every athlete’s goal to play at the next level, the reality is less than 1% of college athletes make it to the professional level. If their original choice of schools isn’t showcasing their talent, (ie:playing time) for whatever reason, they are just enabled to “take their ball and move on.”

It does absolutely nothing for the original university they chose except it leaves a hole in their roster and a waste of valuable time and resources spent in recruiting the player. In the immediacy of their situation, these young athletes enter to fulfill their dreams but the statistics of such success, achieving that goal, proves it might not be what the believe and not in their interest.

Rash decisions, discontentment, frustrations and dissatisfaction are some of the more obvious reasons for entering the portal. However, in the impetuosity of youth, there needs to be a period of time to reach a real, unemotional decision. Let’s admit it, we’ve all done things, driven by emotions, that we’ve later regretted. It’s human nature.

There needs be to a reconciliation period in which to step back from the momentary emotions to allow their decision to be placed in proper perspective. The ability to leave mid-season only feeds and enables these young people to forgo any negative consequences for their choices, it’s just too easy. It does nothing to foster a sense of team, of commitment nor sportsmanship, all foundations of amateur athletics.

In an article by Seldom Used Reserves, “The Dirty Secret of the Transfer Portal” he looks at it from a statistical perspective. While the article specifically deals with quarterbacks entering the transfer portal, it certainly could apply to most other positions on the team.

The dirty secret is that under 20% of those that enter the portal finds a successful landing spot. Having a reconciliation period could help the student athletes rationally make an informed decision before making one they might regret later. The grass isn’t necessarily greener on the other side.

I’m not here to argue the merits of Clemson’s use or non-use of the portal, that’s an entirely different conversation. Whether or not Dabo Swinney ever again brings in another transfer is yet to be seen, but his job as coach, leader and molder of these young men becomes almost impossible with the rules currently in place.

Some players that don’t acclimate to the culture of their chosen school and disciplinary issues shouldn’t be able to evade the consequences of their unwillingness to follow the rules. So, the portal, yet again, offers some a way out of facing the consequences of their actions, plain and simple.

This has about exhausted my ability to explain the transfer portal in even elementary terms because I just don’t like it in the the form it currently exist. I didn’t choose to remain silent and be thought a fool, no, I’ve opened my mouth and in some peoples opinion, I’ve confirmed my foolishness. However, I’m willing to face the consequences of my choice. Quite honestly that is all I seek, consequences for emotional, impetuous, mid-season departures for those who want to escape their situation in hopes of finding their own, private nirvana. It’s just my opinion, feel free to offer yours.

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