Transfer portal brings new look to NCAA
College basketball players leave programs. They’ve done that for years.
A lack of playing time, homesickness and a host of other factors. There are many reasons why basketball players transfer.
The old procedure was go to their coach, let their intentions be known and work through the school’s compliance office. If there was a dispute, there was a 14-day period to have mediation to get it resolved.
Now, that dispute period has been taken away and the NCAA gives schools two business days if they want to dispute a potential transfer before the player’s name is put into a transfer portal. A player can go straight to the compliance office to make the request to transfer and doesn’t necessarily have to contact their coach. The compliance office makes the coach aware of the move.
The change has angered some coaches, and some schools have said they prefer that players make their coaches aware through an email, text or some form of communication.
Oakland (Mich.) University coach Greg Kampe, the dean of Horizon League coaches heading into his 35th year with the Golden Grizzlies, has seen the NCAA transfer portal become a death blow to his team.
He had one of his leading scorers in Jaevin Cumberland and freshman point guard Braden Norris both enter the portal, looking elsewhere.
The lack of communication the NCAA Transfer Portal allows is what makes coaches like Kampe irate.
“The portal allows a kid to run and hide,” Kampe said. “You don’t have to explain yourself. You don’t have to stand up and talk to anybody. You don’t have to look somebody face-to-face and in the eye to somebody who recruited you and spent a lot of money on you and developed you. Now, you can go put your name in there and not have to explain anything.
“And, people are applauding it. That’s what our society has become. It’s pretty amazing. It’s pretty discouraging for our level. You find a kid nobody else wants. You nurture that kid, give him confidence and you build. In my opinion, if they leave, they should have to pay their scholarship back. When a coach leaves, he’s got to pay a buyout.”
Youngstown State has had four players enter the portal this offseason: Atiba Taylor, Alex Holcombe, Kendale Hampton and Antwan Maxwell.
YSU coach Jerrod Calhoun is well aware the transfer epidemic is changing how coaches approach the way they do their jobs, especially when players transfer to Big Ten and other Power Five conference schools.
Do these players need to transfer? Players like Ja Morant, who had a stellar career at Murray State out of the Ohio Valley Conference, is likely to be a top three pick in this year’s NBA Draft.
“You can only control what you can control,” Calhoun said. “When you recruit these guys you have to be yourself. You have to be upfront. This is our coaching style. This is the way we play. You have to trust your relationship and the impact they’re providing here at Youngstown we’re proving for them is mutual.
“There’s been a lot of coaches lose their jobs in the last three to four years because of kids transfering up. Once you have a little success, there’s a lot of people who think the highest level of basketball is the end all, be all. I totally disagree. I think if you’re good enough at the mid-major level and you get to the NCAA Tournament, you’ll be seen on a national scene. There are tons of players in the NBA who have come from mid-majors. That’s been our sell to get guys here. I think sometimes it’s better to be a big fish in a small pond.”
YSU assistant coach Jason Slay said the Penguins staff is upfront with their players, explaining their present and future with the team.
“We’re hands on with them every day, not only from a recruiting standpoint, but from their well-being standpoint,” Slay said. “With this portal thing, you have a bunch of guys that come in and leave. We want to make sure our guys are happy and we’re happy with them.”
YSU Director of Athletics Ron Strollo said if coaches build relationships early in a young student-athlete’s career, it can help solidify a program. Strollo, a former YSU football player, should know. YSU President Jim Tressel, who led the Penguins to four NCAA Division I-AA National Championships as a football coach, has always had long-standing relationships with not only his players but with all who have encountered him.
“If there’s a trust factor and we do what we need to do when they get here on campus and surround them with other coaches and student-athletes that feel the same way, I think you can build a team,” Strollo said. “It doesn’t mean you might get a kid every once in a while that might transfer and think the grass is greener. That’s part of recruiting good players. The same thing for us if we go out and hire good coaches. Eventually, they’re going to move on. That’s the world we’re living in.”
How does a team like YSU use the portal to its benefit?
The NCAA Transfer Portal includes a player’s ID number, name, school and conference, nothing else. YSU assistant coach Brady Trenkle, who coached at Garden City Community College in Kansas prior to coming aboard with the Penguins, knows most of these transfers are JUCO players. Three of the four from YSU in the portal are JUCO players.
Trenkle looks at the portal on a daily basis for the Penguins, doing his due diligence to see if YSU can get a transfer.
“The whole thing is confusing,” Trenkle said. “It doesn’t give you info on the kids. It doesn’t go into detail. It takes a lot of leg work to figure out each kid. It doesn’t list them as grad transfer. You have to look all that stuff up.
“It’s a daily process. There’s 10 kids probably put in there since we’ve been sitting here.”
YSU Associate Athletic Director Elaine Jacobs oversees the academic and eligibility requirements for student-athletes and interprets compliance issues for the university.
She said the portal hasn’t caused more transfers, it is just making the process more visible.
“You had to be a detective to find out who is transferring,” Jacobs said. “Now, it’s out there for everybody to see at the same time. Coaches can look at that without bothering us. Can you send a release to this one? We heard about this one. Can you send a release over there? Now, it’s a one-stop shop, if you will, for compliance perspectives.”
This portal may give players more options to transfer, but does it serve the purpose of the men’s game, especially at the mid-major and lower-major levels?
“The funny part about this is people say athletes should be able to do what they want,” Kampe said. “Well, that’s not what life’s about. Those kids are on teams and you teach them that life is a team sport. You have to learn how to function on a team. Now, these kids make decisions like that. It just doesn’t affect them, it affects the other kids that have the same dreams they do, the dream to go to the NCAA Tournament, dream to win championships and put all that time and effort into it. Then, a player leaves because he’s going to do what’s best for him.
“That’s not what we’re teaching. That’s not what life’s about. Life is about what’s best for your team, your family. It’s not what’s best for you. That’s the battle we face. Twitter world and this generation of people, their whole thing is do what’s best for you. That to me is not life. Maybe that’s old-fashioned, but it’s just not life.”