Top Transfer QB Snubs Louisville For Return To G5 Level After Signing New NIL Deal, Exemplifies Modern Era Of College Football

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Western Kentucky football got good news on Tuesday night as Austin Reed announced his return. Reed, who had previously entered the transfer portal, exemplifies the modern era of college football and college athletics as a whole.

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Austin Reed is running it back. (Photo by James Black/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Who is Austin Reed?

Reed, who began his career at Southern Illinois in 2018 as an unranked prospect, transferred to the D-II level after one year in Carbondale. He packed up and went south to play for West Florida.

While with the Argonauts, Reed made quite the name for himself. The 6-foot-2, 230-pound dual-threat gunslinger led West Florida to the D-II national championship in 2019 and totaled 4,084 passing yards with 40 touchdowns that season.

Reed can spin it. Following a second strong year at West Florida in 2021, he decided to seek another new opportunity with a bigger program and transferred to Western Kentucky.

The Hilltoppers, led by head coach Tyson Helton, throw the ball— a lot. Bailey Zappe, who transferred to WKU from Houston Baptist while Reed was playing in the Sunshine State, set the FBS records for most passing yards and most passing touchdowns in a single season in 2021. Zappe left for the NFL, which created a void at the position.

Reed stepped in and took over in 2022. His first-year numbers were nearly as large as his predecessor.

The Hilltoppers went 8-5 in 13 regular season games (if a school travels to Hawaii, they are granted the right to an extra game) and earned a New Orleans Bowl berth. In that time, as the starter, Reed completed 64.5% of his passes for 4,247 yards and 36 touchdowns with 10 picks. He added 199 yards and eight touchdowns on the ground.

Reed finished second in the FBS in passing yards and fourth in passing touchdowns. He has come a long way.

As a result of Reed’s strong season, there was a lot of interest among Power Five programs. He hit the portal on Dec. 5.

Although there were a lot of details to be worked out, Reed was trending toward a move to Louisville. He was going to be Jeff Brohm’s first big get with the Cardinals after Malik Cunningham announced his plans to turn pro.

Austin Reed got paid, so he stayed.

Well, eight days after entering the transfer portal, Reed announced that he will be back at Western Kentucky next season. It is set to be his last year on the collegiate level.

Although the move came as a bit of a surprise, considering that Reed snubbed Louisville to stay on the Group of Five level, it didn’t come without reason. In the modern era of college football, Name, Image and Likeness money has created something of free agency within recruiting and the portal.

Schools with boosters and collectives that can offer big-money deals will often times lure recruits or transfers to their programs over others that can’t pay as much. It’s the free market.

In this instance, however, the small school had its boosters step up. Reed returned to Western Kentucky after signing a new NIL deal with a local real estate firm in Bowling Green.

While the financial agreement is undisclosed, the number can’t be insignificant. For Reed to turn down Louisville to stay in the Conference USA is a big deal.

Whatever Reed is getting through his new NIL deal at Western Kentucky has to be relatively close to what was being offered on the P5 level. Especially from a school like Louisville, which has had its boosters and fans rally heavily around NIL.

Reed was comfortable enough with the number in Bowling Green to stick around. So he did.

Written by Grayson Weir

Grayson doesn't drink coffee. He wakes up Jacked.

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