Scooter Hobbs column: Transfer Portal is the new “Dear John”

Published 3:07 pm Sunday, December 19, 2021

College football has veered and careened and skidded around to the point where it finally has its very own “Dear John” letter.

It was sorely needed.

And, fortunately, one size fits all. Just pick up the template.

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They’ve been around for a while now, but a huge new market has opened up in this Age of the Transfer Portal.

True, it’s a little different twist on those devastating mail calls that used to arrive at World War II fox holes with the sobering news that the once-devoted Girl Next Door waiting back home had decided maybe it’s time for “both of us” to move on (and, oh by the way, she might even be exploring other options).

The football foot soldiers, so to speak, are calling the shots these days. They’re the ones breaking the hearts.

Not to worry. There’s even a “It’s not you, it’s me,” version.

It mostly plays out on Twitter, of course, although Instagram is also an option and the true hipsters might even turn to TicTok.

But when they pop up on the internet, it’s just as apparent from the onset— like “Dear John” as opposed to “Dearest John” or “My Darling Johnny” — that somebody is about to get jilted and it’s probably not the sender.

Best us historians can tell, the roots of this particular literary art form can be traced all the way back to when players first learned that they could, after “careful consideration, discussions with family and much prayer” skip their senior seasons to enter the NFL Draft.

The first template was quickly whipped up, drawing heavily on excessive exclamation points.

“I will ALWAYS be an Aardvark at heart!!!! Nothing can replace the great memories!!!!!! 4Ever State U!!!!!”

What followed was many thanks to coaches, “teammates for life,” perhaps a few academic types but especially the “greatest fans in the world.”

It was fairly benign. It kind of did make sense for both parties involved and it was easy to wish each other well.

Gradually more and more athletes decided the best way to realize their “lifelong dream” of playing professional football was to play as little football as possible in the interim.

But little adjustment was needed when it became the “in” thing to do to skip the bowl game — “opt out” became the catch phrase.

The old “can’t let the team down” tripe was such leather-helmet thinking anyway, especially up against “what’s best for me and my family’s future.”

You just add the line about deciding to move on to prepare for the NFL Draft, which, best I can tell, mostly involves buying an expensive suit.

Side note: With the lucrative Name, Image Likeness now in play, you do wonder if the local pawn shop or tattoo parlor near campus that is fronting the NIL money for a star quarterback might want the return on investment that playing in the bowl game would bring.

Minor detail.

But now the Transfer Portal has exploded and — no insider trading here — but I plan to invest most of my portfolio in the “Dear John” sections of social media and would suggest you do the same.

It’s the future, and it’s taking some adjustments to the tried-and-true formula. It takes subtle keystrokes to express how much you’ve loved your experience at State U., how much the coaches and teammates have meant to you, how “appreciative you are for athletic and academic growth” before explaining — still after much more prayer — that you really don’t want to be there anymore.

For instance, those “best fans in the world” have to be downgraded to just “great fans” because new fans are waiting and probably despise the ones you’re leaving behind.

You have to dance gingerly around the ol’ “teammates for life” part because, well, there’s that tricky follow-up.

Shortly thereafter, will come the announcement of the new destination — probably to Alabama if you’re any good — and you have to quickly switch gears to how “excited” you are to “begin this next chapter.”

It takes careful consultation, probably more prayer, not to burn bridges along the way.

Fortunately, it’s a no-fault exercise. Apparently Congress recently passed a law that, free country or not, no one is allowed to criticize a college athlete anymore.

Somewhere along the way, they became victims.

Scooter Hobbs covers LSU athletics. Email him at