MARTINSBURG, W.Va. – West Virginia University football and basketball have felt the effects of the NCAA’s new transfer portal rules.
Those effects have both been positive and negative, especially for the football team. The Mountaineers lost production in defensive back Derek Pitts and Kenny Robinson; however, gained two quarterbacks Austin Kendall from Oklahoma and Jarret Doege from Bowling Green.
The transfer rule and transfer portal continues to be a hot topic, according to Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bolwsby during media days earlier this week. Bowlsby said this remains something the Big 12 is following up on.
WVU Athletic Director Shane Lyons, who also serves at the Division I Chair of the Oversight Committee, reported to Bowlsby saying the number of transfers on an institution-by-institution basis are about the same as they have been over the last few years.
“Interestingly enough there are kids going to the portal and leaving with a scholarship and finding difficulty in getting another scholarship at another institution,” Bowlsby said. “There are many walk-ons in the portal that are going from a non-scholarship environment trying to find a scholarship and you certainly can’t blame them for that.”
Bowlsby said there is work to be done on the transfer environment, which will keep it a front and center issue in the foreseeable future.
When asked whether he believed the transfer portal should be tweaked or done away with and whether athletes should be eligible for a one-time transfer with immediate eligibility, Bowlsby said there is not short answer.
“I think we’re sending a bad message to kids that they can have a bad practice or a bad week of practice and just decide one day they’re going to walk out and put their name in the portal without talking to their coaches. I don’t think that was every envisioned and it shouldn’t work that way. It’s not that way in your private life or your business life and I just think we’re sending a bad message.”
He continued by saying that this has become a situation with coaches saying they can transfer to A, but they can’t transfer to B or C or they embargo it all together.
“So I think it probably was avoidable, but we are where we are now,” Bowlsby said. “ … If I were the benevolent dictator and had an opportunity to wave my hand and make this environment the way it should be, the data could not be any clearer: After a transfer, sitting a year is good academically. There isn’t any question.”
Bowlsby also sits on the National Letter of Intent Appeal Board and it is common to have a sick relative or some family situation that needs to be taken care of, he said.
“This year in residence would give you the opportunity to take care of that,” Bowlsby said. “What I would advocate that’s different from the current situation is I would advocate that you can get that year back. So if you stay there and go through the process, you would be able to not forfeit that year, but sit a year, get acclimated, move through your career and if you want that year back, either as a graduate transfer or as a fifth year player you can stay on scholarship and participate. I think that’s the model that works.”
Bowlsby said he would do this in all sports.
“I think we have made a mistake saying we’re going to do this in some sports and not in others. I would advocate for it to be in all sports,” he continued.
For the future, head coach Neal Brown said he believes his team will have a mix of transfers of high school athletes,
“We’re always going to try to build our team through the high school football recruiting. I think that’s how you build your foundation,” Brown said. “I think it’s important to have guys in your program for four and five years, but we’re also going to be creative in how we build our roster. If you look at what we’ve done over the summer you’ll see that.”
Brown added they will be “creative” and it will be a year-long approach to building a roster.
“We will take transfers, that’s something, whether you’re at West Virginia or any of the other nine teams in this league everybody has done that and we will continue to do that but we’re going to build our program through high school football players,” he explained.
In regard to the Kendall transfer, Oklahoma Head Coach Lincoln Riley said he was always going to let him come to West Virginia.
“That was no issue,” he said. “That’s part of these new rules is we can’t restrict them from going anywhere. My contention was I had a concern about a player being able to transfer and be immediately eligible the very next year in our league. I don’t think that’s healthy for the league.”
Riley continued by discussing his personal relationship with Kendall.
“In the end, I think my personal relationship with Austin and his family, the fact that he took a chance and came out to Oklahoma when I first got there, the fact that I was kind of with him every step of the way, I think the personal side of it overtook maybe more the business side of it from my head and my views on it haven’t changed,” Riley said. “I still don’t really agree with it but I realize in that moment I wanted to do the best thing for the kid, and I couldn’t get past the personal side of it.”
He concluded that he hopes the issue continues to be addressed.
“I hope it’s something we keep looking at because I think we’ve got to protect our league on that and I think that’s something we’ve got to look out for each other on,” Riley said.