Are you aware that free agency is now a major component of college football?
Are you pleased the players on whom coaches were counting to be a part of the team have their names in the transfer portal with about 1,000 other players?
Probably not, especially if you’re a fan of the Georgia Bulldogs, where freshman quarterback Justin Fields decided he didn’t want to wait any longer to be the starter and was granted immediate eligibility by the NCAA after he transferred to Ohio State.
I don’t wish for much, but I want to see Ohio State and Georgia in a major bowl game next season with Fields going against his former teammates. Yes, that could be fun.
I am convinced where you stand on the topic of whether college players should be allowed more freedom of movement without repercussions is generational. I was listening to sports talk on the radio last week when the host, likely just a few years out of college, was adamant players should move about as they please without restrictions, and the host didn’t appear interested in hearing from anyone who disagreed with him.
But there are people who disagree, and many of them are college coaches who can spend hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars in travel expenses in an effort to secure a prospect’s signature. It’s all a waste when a player you’re planning to have for three or four years leaves after one season.
I remember the days when Tom Osborne at Nebraska groomed players, mostly offensive linemen, to become starters by their senior year. But that kind of patience and dedication to a program bigger than themselves has mostly disappeared with a generation where cellphones are seemingly attached to their hands.
It’s become a problem in college athletics, where coaches now have to convince athletes to stay before going out and recruiting the next batch of incoming players.
“We have seen kids that have entered the transfer portal who haven’t been on campus for a semester,” Penn State coach James Franklin told reporters when asked about the issue. “How do you learn to overcome adversity and fight through battles and learn to compete? I worry about that for our sport; I worry about that for kids and our country.”
I can only imagine my dad’s reaction had I told him I wanted to transfer to another high school for football because the coach didn’t like me.
“You want to transfer?” he would’ve said. “OK, fine. Go buy yourself a car and some insurance for that car, and I’ll come watch you play. Maybe, but probably not.”
I don’t like the glut of free agency in professional sports, especially in baseball, where the leadoff hitter for your favorite team could be batting first for your team’s rival the next season. I certainly hope college football doesn’t become a turnstile where players come and go freely without repercussions.
“This waiver thing, we’ve got to help people that truly have a problem, [like] their family is sick,” Texas Christian coach Gary Patterson said. “It can’t be just because you don’t like somebody or somebody said something to you. We all have to live in a world that’s like that.”
People who coach professional and amateur athletes no longer have the stranglehold on them they once had, and that’s a good thing. There are legitimate reasons why college athletes transfer, and the NCAA should weigh all the factors before deciding whether a player deserves a waiver to play immediately at another school. But the pendulum has clearly swung in a players’ favor, which leaves me wondering.
Could Justin Fields transfer back to Georgia after Jake Fromm, the current starter, turns pro?
Rick Fires can be reached at rfires@ nwadg.com or on Twitter @NWARick.
Print Headline: Trend toward free agency is bad for college sports