FRISCO, Texas – Some coaches are in favor of the idea and others are against it. Be certain of one thing: Coaches across college football have differing opinions of the NCAA’s Transfer Portal.

It was a consistent topic of discussion at media events last week from the Big 12, Atlantic Coast Conference, Big Ten and Southeastern Conference coaches. Coaches across Conference USA also have differing opinions on the Transfer Portal introduced in October that changed not only the outside perception of a player’s ability to transfer, but also the information and theories players themselves are developing because of this new system.

“I like the Transfer Portal,” Western Kentucky coach Tyson Helton said at the C-USA Kickoff event. “Like anything, when something is new you have to work the bugs out. There’s a couple of things the NCAA will look at and there will probably be some new legislation to help it be a better process.”

The Transfer Portal itself didn’t change a player’s ability to intend to transfer, it just provided a database for NCAA college administrators to access and identify players seeking a transfer. Recruiting service 247sports has access to the Portal and updates its site daily if a player enters the system.

The issue lately is the idea that entering this portal makes it easier to obtain a waiver from the NCAA and earn immediate eligibility wherever the player transfers.

Alabama coach Nick Saban made his opinion clear at SEC Media Days last week saying the NCAA has ‘gotten very liberal’ in granting waivers, which turns transferring in college athletics into a free agency market. The six-time national championship coach said at one point in the summer there had been at least 65 eligibility waivers granted by the NCAA to transferring players.

“I think the spirit of the Transfer Portal in and of itself is a positive thing for players,” Saban said. “You know, I think when we started with the Transfer Portal, it was a mechanism for players to be able to say I’m transferring, so everybody knows that I’m transferring, so if that creates opportunities for me to go different places, then that’s a good thing for the player.

“The issue with the Transfer Portal is we’ve gotten very liberal in giving people waivers, so when we do that, it becomes free agency, which I don’t think is good for college football. I don’t think it’s good for fans.”

NCAA rules require undergraduates transferring to sit out a season unless granted a waiver. Of course, there are exceptions.

The NCAA announced recent changes to its guidelines for granting transfer waivers in an effort to tighten the process and require more documentation evidence supporting a waiver, thus making it more difficult for players to gain immediate eligibility.

Most cases for an immediate waiver for undergraduates are granted for family reasons or documented mental health concerns.

WKU linebacker Eli Brown is an example of a player granted immediate eligibility for family matters. The former Warren East High School star redshirted and played two seasons at Kentucky before transferring closer to home last summer.

WKU is still awaiting decisions on transfer waiver requests in football and men’s basketball. Kenny Cooper transferred to WKU this summer from Lipscomb and hasn’t yet earned an undergraduate degree. Coach Rick Stansbury and his staff are petitioning the NCAA to allow Cooper to play immediately rather than sit out for a year-in-residence. Because former Lipscomb coach Casey Alexander left at the end of the year to coach crosstown rival Belmont, WKU’s coaches are hoping it will help their case to give Cooper immediate eligibility.

WKU’s football team recently added two linebacker transfers in Malik Staples and Jaden Hunter. Staples is eligible now after graduating from Louisville, but the coaching staff is trying to obtain a waiver for Hunter and hopefully grant him three years of eligibility starting this fall.

Finding a landing spot on the other side of the Portal is predicated on a team’s need and scholarship availability, and Hunter benefited from the system since leaving Georgia. That’s not always the case.

WKU freshman wide receiver Manny Allen entered his name in the Transfer Portal in June, but he’s still with the program and expected to be with the Hilltoppers for fall camp.

The risk involved with entering the Portal is schools can cancel a player’s scholarship for the next term. So, if a player wishes to transfer and goes through compliance staff to submit their name in the Portal, there’s no guarantee their scholarship or spot on the team will still be there.

All of those factors are why Florida Atlantic coach Lane Kiffin believes those hurt the most from this Portal are the players themselves. Educating them on the process is the next step in ironing out kinks in this new system.

“I think the thing that’s not understood very well is not much changed,” Kiffin said. “Kids were always able to transfer. People act like this Transfer Portal means you don’t have to sit out. Now the NCAA is just allowing kids to transfer. Nothing changed. It’s just a thing you put your name into but it’s the exact thing it used to be and really I don’t think the portal has been good because kids are misadvised at that age thinking there’s going to be a bunch of places that want me.

“I don’t know the exact number but I was told as of a month ago, there’s still 800 kids out there that went in the Portal that haven’t gone anywhere, because nobody has space. They capped you in this new cap rule where there’s 25 (maximum player per signing class). To me you have two things that were set up that have unintended consequences with kids going in, but not a lot of spaces to take. The kids are the ones going to suffer because now you’ve got kids that aren’t going to graduate and have nowhere to go.”

Southern Mississippi coach Jay Hopson was adamantly against the Portal’s concept because of the scholarships left on the table for the sake of a desire to transfer. Hopson said he believed some players from Power 5 conference teams may transfer to a Group of 5 university thinking more playing time will be automatic, but if there isn’t need at the positions or scholarship available, the players are left with nowhere to go.

“There’s only so many scholarships to go around, and not only are you transferring out but you have to find the team that has that need for a transfer,” Hopson said. “What happens is a lot of student-athletes are left out in the cold. And I can honestly say in discussions I’ve had with coaches is they’ve made that point. They don’t know if this is a great thing for student-athletes as a whole.

“It’s what we have, it’s a system and we’ll see over the next few years how it affects student-athletes.”

Old Dominion coach Bobby Wilder has a more liberal view of the Portal because his roster is revamped with 48 newcomers between incoming freshmen and transfers. Four are graduate transfers.

“Like anything when it’s new, it’s big news and gets criticized and gets picked at,” Wilder said. “It’s going to be fine. It’s going to work out eventually. It’s as much now about the players understanding it. The biggest part I see now is they don’t fully understand the ramifications of going from school A to school B, they may not take all my credit hours and school B may not have my major. I might go from being a junior to a sophomore (academically). It’s as much having to educate the players on what we learn from our parents and grandparents that the grass isn’t always greener on the other side of the fence. You have to do your homework and research.”

Helton said he wants to keep an open mind about the Portal, recognizing that not everything works out during four years with the same program. Helton pointed to the success former Hilltopper quarterback Mike White had at WKU after transferring from South Florida. White’s skill set didn’t fit Willie Taggart’s system when he took over as USF’s coach, so White transferred to WKU, sat out a season and was a two-year starter who led WKU to a 2016 C-USA title. He’s now the backup QB for the Dallas Cowboys.

“Not every kid is going to come into a program and be happy,” Helton said. “There’s a lot of different situations that come up and there will be a new opportunity. We’re educators and teachers and we’re trying to mentor young men to be successful, and sometimes being successful is at another place. You just have to roll with it. We may have some guys in my tenure that want to test the waters and move on or a grad transfer. On the back end we’re going to get some other guys we think are good players. It’s a two-way street and you have to keep an open mind.”{&end}

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