There's 'March Madness' and then there's 'Portal Madness'
By MIKE SMITH/KEVIN SMITH
Miami's upset of No. 23 Toledo for a Mid-American Conference title set off wild celebrations all the way from Detroit to Brick Street in Oxford Saturday night.
The joy continued Sunday when Miami football found out the RedHawks will be heading to Orlando, Fla., where they will face Appalachian State Dec. 16 in the Avocados from Mexico Cure Bowl.
Monday was a bit of a roller coaster as the NCAA transfer portal opened. From August 1 2022 until May 1 2023 (per ESPN), nearly 8,700 football players entered the portal.
Back in 2019, just 6.4 percent of FBS rosters were transfer players, according to data from SportScource Analytics. This year (2023), transfers on FBS rosters rose to 20.5 percent.
The portal can be . . .
. . . devastating for some programs and a sounce of hope for others. For most, it breeds significant uncertainty as athletes coaches know are sometimes replaced by athletes know of ... at least by stats and maybe video.
Of course, there is also the Deion Sanders approach, where he essentially pointed most of the Colorado roster to the portal shortly after taking over that program after the 2022 season.
According to on3.com, three current RedHawks jumped into the portal early this week. R-So quarterback Aveon Smith, who has finished the last two season as a starter following injuries to Brett Gabbert, entered the portal Monday. Kicker Graham Nicholson, who is a Groza Award finalist and was recently named a CBS Sports All-American, joined the portal Tuesday, as did freshman CB Daisjuan Mercer.
Meanwhile, several other key cogs in this year's success -- on both sides of the ball -- have made it known they are returning. Among the offensive returnees is quarterback Brett Gabbert and wideout Gage Larvadain.
The latter transferred to Miami this year after previously playing at Southeastern Louisiana. Gabbert, who was among the MAC's top passers before a leg injury ended his season, could become the NCAA's first D-1 QB to start six consecutive seasons as quarterback for the same team.
Defensively, MAC Defensive Player of the Year Matt Salopek, announced on X (former Twitter) that he will be returning in 2023. Likewise for linebacker Ty Wise. The former Indiana linebacker also had an outstanding year and played a key role in the championship game when he was used as a "spy" on MAC Player of the Year Dequan Finn.
Such returnees, along with others, are music to Head Coach Chuck Martin's ears. Asked about the portal at a recent press conference, he told reporters, "There is not a right or wrong answer (on the portal) ... but I know the answer I want is that everybody stays and we go for the top12 next year and make the big dance. ... We have a great nucleus of players."
Editor-Publisher Mike Smith
Mike grew up in Mid-American Conference football and basketball territory and returned there after military service. He has been covering MAC football and men's basketball for much of the last several decades.