Did the Grinches dull NLI Day?
By MIKE SMITH
High school signing Day (AKA NLI Day) used to serve as a beacon of hope for the future. With the transfer portal and other changes descending on college sports like locosts on a family farm, I sense Signing Day has lost at least some of its luster.
Those signatures -- by an large -- represented the future. Transfers happened, but they were relatively few and far between. Now -- with the current transfer portal format -- the "future" might be defined as "the next few months."
Let's say a D-1 football staff works its tail off to land 20 quality high school players on NLI Day. Who's to say how many of them will be there even one year later?
Personally, I believe . . .
. . . in a transfer mechanism. Sometimes, for instance, it becomes clear that a player is not in future plans -- despite the player's best efforts. That player could be a good fit somewhere else. Hey, Joe Burrow ended up being a great fit at LSU after sitting behind J.T. Barret for three years at Ohio State.
Not that long ago, most undergraduate transfers had to sit a year unless there were some extenuating circumstances (as defined/accepted by the NCAA). However, the portal rules have changed, effectively turning the portal into a revolving door.
One example is quarterback Ben Bryant. He began his collegiate career at Cincinnati and transferred to Eastern Michigan for the 2020 season. While there, he completed 68.4 percent of his passes, good for 3,121 yards with 14 TDs and seven interceptions. However, after that one season in Ypsilanti, he transferred back to Cincinnati. He started 11 games for the 'Cats before suffering a foot injury. By May, Bryant jumped on the transfer train again, joining Northwestern, where he appeared in nine games and led the team with 173 completions in 277 attempts (1,807 yards, 13 TDs, 6 INTs).
According to ESPN staff writer Tom VanHaaren (data from SportSource Analytics): (HERE)
-- In 2019, transfers comprised 6.4 percent of FBS rosters
-- In 2023, transfers comprised 20.5 percent of FBS rosters
Some schools, were well above that mark. Under new head coach Deon Sanders, Colorado brought in 54 transfers, who subsequently played in 69.6 percent of the Buffaloes games. Texas State was next, with 64 percent of games played by transfers. On the other hand, Georgia registered at just 5 percent.
The overall trend could, in fact, take a big jump this year. Seven states, including Ohio, sued in federal court. They claimed (among other things) that NCAA transfer eligibility restrictions of multiple-time transfers were an illegal restraint of college athletes, harming their income (e.g. NIL money) and exposure (tv/game) opportunities.
With court gavels raised and likely ready to rule against limits to player movement, the NCAA Division I Council in July endorsed elimination of an NCAA rule prohibiting multiple transfers by athletes.
The portal officially opened December 4, with numerous football players quickly joining the migration. On Dec. 14, a federal judge in West Virginia granted a 14-day temporary restraining order (TRO) that allowed immediate eligibility for multi-time transfers. In less than a week, the NCAA reached an agreement than turned the 14-day TRO into an injunction that carries through the end of spring sports.
It is gasoline on the fire! But that can happen when you mix lawyers, politicians and sports.
Indeed, one year "rentals" may become more of a necessity for teams desperate not only to "improve," but to replace their own transfer portal losses.
Several key contributors (e.g. Miami's QB Aveon Smith, RB Rashad Amos, WR Gage Lavadain, DL/E Caiden Woullard) from 2023 are among the portal entries. They will be difficult to replace, but you deal with the rules as they exist. For Miami, as with many other teams, the portal giveth and taketh away.
I think I felt better when NLI Day giveth. The new portal seems more like a turnover machine.
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.