DESTIN, Fla. — The NCAA transfer portal isn’t going away, and that has made roster management a key topic among coaches and athletic directors at the SEC Spring Meetings this week.
SEC commissioner Greg Sankey revealed that “transfer issues were talked about in every meeting of our coaches” during his recap of the opening days of the annual league -wide event at the Hilton Sandestin Beach Golf Resort & Spa.
College athletes have always had the option to transfer from one school to the next, but the rules governing the immediacy of eligibility have grown more favorable for student-athletes in recent years.
The transfer portal, which includes every collegiate sport, is the latest tool available to student athletes. The athletes need only go to their respective school’s compliance department and request to enter it.
Other schools can then contact the student-athletes about he potential for transfer.
Of course, complications have arisen along with unintended consequences, which Sankey addressed with the league coaches.
“I identified my concerns that we have young people going into the transfer portal who are under the impression perhaps there’s a waiver on the other side,” Sankey said, “and are making decisions when that may not be the case.”
That issue would certainly hit home with former Georgia freshman tight end Luke Ford, who transferred to Illinois but had his waiver request denied.
The eligibility waivers are determined on a case-by-case basis.
Former Bulldogs’ quarterback Justin Fields, for example, was granted his request for immediate eligibility and is expected to start at Ohio State this season.
But neither Ford nor Fields knew for sure what their status would be when they entered the portal, and Sankey and league coaches want to do something about that.
“The focus (was) on students-athletes understanding their status as they enter this (transfer) process,” Sankey said, “ …. so they make informed decisions.”
Would Ford have transferred from Georgia if he knew he had to sit out a year? It’s a fair question to ask.
The other issue coaches discussed at length that grew out of the NCAA portal was related to the timing of transfer.
“We talked about last year’s change around the four-game opportunity to play without using a season of eligibility,” Sankey said, “and then in late September when we hit that four game mark, maybe some changes for student athletes who said ‘I’m going to transfer, I want to save my year of eligibility.’ “
When players leave midseason it can penalize the entire program, as depth has become more and more of an issue in college football.
Power 5 teams with a conference championship game face the prospect of playing 15 games in a season.
The injury issues which make quality depth a factor in most any team’s run for a title have been well-documented. Thus, losing just one second-team player at a key position could play a direct effect in the outcome of future games.
“Those are probably the two issues, the waiver piece and the four-game (eligibility/transfer) that arose to be the most extensive part of the conversations.”
Coaches also addressed the 85-man scholarship limit in football, along with the annual signing class limit, and how those things have been affected by the increase in transfers and players declaring early for the NFL.
“The (signing) number 25 was established at a time when the transfer frequency was lower, and the declarations in pursuit of the NFL draft after the third year were lower,” Sankey said. “So I think our coaches appropriately raised the question of how we evaluate the signing limit number and what does that mean for graduate transfers as well.
“There are some roster number issues … where you’ve struggled to get back to 85, and if we’re not at 80-85 consistently, then we’re not offering opportunities for young people.”
Below is Sankey’s review of his talks with league coaches in its entirety.
SEC commissioner Greg Sankey
DawgNation at SEC Spring Meetings
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