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Goodness, you can’t look at a college football player wrong these days, or he will transfer. And he’ll do it before the bowl to get back at you.
“I’m taking my ball and going to the transfer portal. So there!”
The NCAA transfer portal rule that allows players to transfer to another school without losing a season sitting out makes sense when it involves players who are not playing much, if at all. They can find a greener football field where they can play, or think they can, and the school can try to find a better player, or think it can.
The graduate transfer rule also makes sense as players must first graduate before going to another school and playing the next season, which also makes them think about their decision longer.
What is happening now does not make sense. Players who started this past season who could very well start again next season are entering the transfer portal at an alarming rate and skipping town before the bowl they helped earn for their team.
The list is growing, and many of them are quarterbacks. On Monday, Oklahoma quarterback Spencer Rattler, who entered the portal two weeks ago, announced he will transfer to South Carolina. He will obviously not play for Oklahoma in the Alamo Bowl on Dec. 29 against Oregon. Hey, why not just let him play for the Gamecocks against North Carolina in something called the Mayo Bowl on Dec. 30? There probably won’t be many watching.
Rattler, a red-shirt sophomore from Pinnacle High in Phoenix, was the No. 1 dual-threat quarterback in the nation in 2019. He threw for 1,483 yards and 11 touchdowns this season, but he was benched in favor of freshman Caleb Williams midway through the year. Then his coach, Lincoln Riley, left to become the coach at USC.
Understandable move by Rattler, but he still could have started next year at Oklahoma, which surely will continue to be better in football than South Carolina.
Also on Monday, Texas A&M quarterback Zach Calzada entered the transfer portal after starting 10 games in 2021 and throwing for 2,185 yards and 17 touchdowns. He heroically shook off an injury and led the Aggies to one of the greatest victories in program history — 41-38 over No. 1 Alabama. He leaves the Aggies quarterback duties for the Gator Bowl on Dec. 31 against Wake Forest to walk-on freshman Blake Bost, who has completed 2 of 7 passes with an interception this season.
Yes, Calzada became the starter only because the original starter, freshman Haynes King, was injured. And King well could be the starter next season, but so could Calzada. Is he chicken?
Do Calzada and Rattler want guaranteed starting jobs? Few things in life are guaranteed, kids.
LSU starting sophomore quarterback Max Johnson also recently entered the transfer portal, leaving the Tigers with just walk-on freshman quarterback Matt O’Dowd or converted wide receiver Jontre Kirklin for their Texas Bowl against Kansas State. Kirklin played quarterback in high school, and so did many others. Or freshman quarterback Garrett Nussmeier, who could beat out Johnson next season, can waste a whole season of his future by playing in a third tier bowl between two teams with a combined 13-11 record.
Incoming five-star quarterback Walker Howard could also beat out Johnson next year. Do these kids just not like competition? Yes, LSU has a new coach, Brian Kelly, whose offense at Notre Dame was not exactly ultra-progressive. And Kelly did recruit Howard, so Johnson might be making the right move. But Johnson doesn’t have to make it now. That’s the problem.
Johnson could stick around and put his play in the Texas Bowl on film for his future, though the Texas Bowl might be categorized as independent film. Calzada and Rattler also do not have to decide now.
But it is getting more and more popular to ghost your team. Other quarterbacks who have recently decided to leave their programs hanging, even though they logged significant playing time and could continue to do so, are Auburn’s Bo Nix, USC’s Kedon Slovis and Tennessee’s Harrison Bailey.
The transfer portal rule needs to be adjusted so as to incorporate some of the graduate transfer rule. The NCAA should make players stay at their first school for at least two years before a transfer. That will lessen the number of rash, emotional decisions.
Too often, players and those close to them, such as Little League parents, push toward the portal with the attitude of the spoiled kid on the playground who brought the football. When he doesn’t like how things go, he takes his ball — his delusional attitude — and goes home.
It could help these players more in their future in life by sticking it out — at least through the bowl or for a year or two.
“There’s a point to where there’s a huge value later on of persevering through adverse situations,” Mississippi State coach Mike Leach said Saturday during a press conference to discuss his team’s Liberty Bowl against Texas Tech on Dec. 28. One can’t give young kids to much liberty.
“It’s one of the biggest absurdities that I’ve seen, and it’s selfish, too,” Leach said of the rash of players skipping bowls as they transfer or prepare for the NFL Draft. “You’ve got an obligation to the place that helped build and develop you and finish it out in the bowl. That’s part of it. You owe it to your team. You owe it to your fans. You owe it to your coaches.”
Many have been quick to criticize Leach because he left his team and fan base at Washington State after the 2019 season for more money to coach Mississippi State. But at least Leach coached the bowl for Washington State.
And Leach is an adult who has paid his dues. It’s America. You can leave a job. Sorry, these college kids have not quite earned that right yet. In other words, do as I say, not as I do, for now. And after you grow up, or play in the bowl, or wait a couple of years, then you can do the same.
“They can’t play one more college game? Well, that’s ridiculous,” Leach said. “It’s the most bizarre thing in the world to me.”
Yeah, just wait until you see some of these bizarre bowls coming up with rag-tag rosters and third stringers playing. It will look like a spring game.
And perhaps one day, bowls will feature players transferring from one team to the other at halftime.