Scooter Hobbs column: Portal’s transfer of power gone awry
Published 8:21 am Friday, January 28, 2022
We’ll see where the name, image and likeness goes.
But this NCAA transfer portal chaos may be the ruin of the college game.
Hear me out.
Email newsletter signup
Better yet, listen to Ben McDonald.
“I am not a fan of it in any sport,” the former LSU and Baltimore Orioles star pitcher said of the portal. “To me it’s starting to feel like travel ball — ‘if my son can’t play shortstop and bat third in the lineup, I’m going to go find somewhere else.’”
He’s not just yelling at those danged kids to get off his lawn.
I’ve tried to wrap my arms around the portal — finally, some power to the players, all that jazz.
But I just can’t quite get there.
Grad transfers — fine. The NCAA still pays lip service to education, and if a player gets that diploma with eligibility remaining, seems like a nice reward to play wherever he wants. Call it the Joe Burrow Rule.
Sit out a year — go for it. Nobody should pay forever for a mistake.
But the no-fault transfer with no visible rules is not good for the game, maybe disastrous.
And spare me the sob story comparison that their coaches are free to leave on the slightest.
Not really. Those coaches are under contract and — unless you’re Jimbo Fisher at Texas A&M — somebody has to take care of the buyout before bolting for their greener pastures. Yeah, those things work both ways.
So there are what are known as “consequences.”
All the players have to do, bless their exploited hearts, is log on to social media.
Nick Saban has warned us about the consequences of having no consequences for player movement.
And, sure enough, his Alabama team now has a chance to corral all the best talent that it may have overlooked during high school recruiting.
If it continues, the SEC’s two divisions might have to be renamed Select and Non-Select.
And how’s that working out for the Louisiana High School Athletic Association?
But even that may not be the biggest threat to the college game as we know and love it.
The college game and the NFL co-exist fine now.
Most football fans are fans of both. For random example, we can safely say that most LSU fans are also huge Saints fans.
But the emotional connections are vastly different.
You want your NFL team to scour the nation for the best talent and pony up in free agency and the draft to get it. Doesn’t matter how you do it. Just do it. You’ll learn their names later.
And you know in advance — it’s a business, after all — that there’s always a chance that next year Bobby Hebert or Morten Andersen might get a better deal, be playing for the hated Falcons and trying to beat you.
It’s accepted. That’s the NFL.
The attachment to your college team is a little different, a little deeper, a lot more romantic.
Pollyanna, perhaps, but even college fans with no educational bond to the school like to think that those fine young men out there are fighting their hearts out for love of the school, often faithfully carrying the dreams of an entire state and they’d probably never win a game if it wasn’t for the support of the student section and the best marching band in the world.
When the best of them go on to the NFL, you’ll get the warm and fuzzies that you knew them back when.
There is some of that. Scattered outbreaks at least. It’s the harmless gentlemen’s agreement (farce) played between fan and player.
But with the portal resembling Grand Central Station, the dirty little secret gets out in the open.
Most, at best, are playing for each other, at worst for “what’s in my best interests.”
They don’t really care what is going on amongst the tailgaters. And if they see a better opportunity, they’re probably gone.
You’re just watching football mercenaries, no different from the pros, with lineups playing musical chairs from one season to the next.
Not quite as romantic, not quite the attachment, as rooting for the boy next door.
If the trend continues, you’re just watching a Triple-A version of the NFL.
The connection won’t be the same and if the feeling is that they don’t care about you, then …
Who roots for a travel ball team, anyway?
Scooter Hobbs covers LSU
athletics. Email him at