Ken Schreiber: College football needs to amend its transfer rules

·6 min read

As the 2021 college football season comes to an end, it's time to address the good, the bad and the ugly of college football. You've heard of the "State of the Union Address?" This is the "State of College Football Address."

The season culminated in a thrilling 33-18 Georgia victory over Alabama, the Dawgs' first championship in 41 years. There was a parade and celebration in Athens, Georgia, on Saturday. The party should have lasted a month. It didn't even last a week. College football's overall health is in trouble. We've told you that in the past and it's getting worse. Alabama has had 16 players enter the transfer portal while Georgia lost five. These are arguably the most talented rosters in the country but even they are not immune from players leaving for other schools. It's happening everywhere.

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Georgia fans celebrate during the national championship celebration at Sanford Stadium in Athens, Ga., on Saturday.
Georgia fans celebrate during the national championship celebration at Sanford Stadium in Athens, Ga., on Saturday.

Transferring is now the prevailing and acceptable way of thinking both from a player's perspective and the university itself and it's bad for the sport. Last season Michigan State welcomed 15 transfers while 22 left. That's nearly half the roster. The moves paid off with the biggest turnaround in Spartan history (2-5 to 11-2). Remember what we've said here all along. "If I ain't playing, I ain't staying."

Georgia coach Kirby Smart speaks during the national championship celebration at Sanford Stadium in Athens, Ga., on Saturday.
Georgia coach Kirby Smart speaks during the national championship celebration at Sanford Stadium in Athens, Ga., on Saturday.

The transfer portal — a disaster

◘Alabama offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien called the transfer portal similar to free agency but without the rules. While describing it accurately, I simply call it a disaster. The NCAA needs to step in and make it harder for players to pack up and leave. I would recommend having players sit out the first four games the following season if they choose to transfer. It would slow down the massive relocation and give more incentive for a player to stay and develop his skills. Good idea? Fuhgeddaboudit! Why? Because the money being thrown around at universities, coaches and now players via NIL is so large, loyalty has become a foreign word to all who participate.

◘Supposedly, Congress might get involved and address NIL before the Fortune 500 companies start to "incentivize" players' decisions as to where they commit to. Remember when U.S. Sen. Mitt Romney said Congress will be working on national legislation to address athletes' ability to profit from their names, images and likeness? You probably don't because that was in October 2019. What has Congress done? Nothing. Don't hold your breath. The NCAA? It won't do anything for fear of being embarrassed and sued. Maybe the best thing would be to recognize the players as a union, have negotiations culminating in a collective bargaining agreement with a salary cap. After all, that would actually reduce the huge disparity that continues to grow between the large universities and others. That's not happening either. After all, this is amateur athletics. Yeah, right.

◘Remember the days when a "full-ride" scholarship sufficed? Now that's not good enough. Today's typical top college football player is a student-athlete (again, a term that we previously described as an oxymoron) more interested in developing into an NFL player. He wants the best coaching, top facilities, amenities, and of course, the most money he can be paid through NIL. Capitalism is great in a free-market society but college football does not reflect society. Without some regulations, it's headed for a handful of schools dominating the sport. The money that comes in from corporate America via NIL is the greatest potential danger because it will influence and incentivize where a player commits. If that's the next norm, it will be the survival of the fittest.

The missing ingredient

◘Still, even with all these challenges, college football perseveres. The pageantry, the tradition and the passion of an-on campus game cannot be duplicated. The popularity of college football is arguably at an all-time high, which is why the money being thrown around is also at an all-time high. More than 22 million people watched the championship game. While that's up from 18 million from last year, it pales in comparison to the 27.3 million who watched the Oregon-Auburn game in 2011. Seeing the same teams year after year in the playoff will only diminish interest in the sport. After all, variety is the spice of life. That's the missing ingredient.

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◘Maybe expansion of the College Football Playoff to eight or 12 teams will increase its popularity. Unfortunately, as we stated here in September when it was supposedly a "done deal," it was anything but certain. At their recent meeting this month, no agreement was reached. That, too, appears dead after ACC commissioner Jim Phillips stated he is not in favor of expanding the CFP. The decision by Oklahoma and Texas to exit the Big12 for the SEC created further divide and distrust among the commissioners.

◘Whatever happens won't affect the attraction of the sport each Saturday. Where else can 156,990 people attend a football game (Tennessee and Virginia Tech at Bristol Motor Speedway on Sept. 10, 2016). Millions watch it live and many more see it on television (or another form of broadcast). So optimism remains for the sport to fix its problems because it maintains its appeal to the American public by captivating audiences with excitement, energy and enthusiasm. The game is transitioning; where it lands is anybody's guess. For now though, as long as St. Nick (Saban) remains at Alabama, all roads to a national championship go through Tuscaloosa, Alabama.

Signing off for the season

On a personal note, this concludes my coverage for the 2021-22 season. I am eternally blessed again to have had the opportunity to attend games all over the country each weekend through the national championship and then the privilege to write about them, as well as all the weekly news, polls, and yes, the controversy, that is college football. As the saying goes, "when you enjoy what you're doing, it's never work." Last year we were grateful just to have a season due to COVID-19. This year, the crowds returned and so did the appreciation and love for this beautiful sport. Thanks to all of you, my faithful readers who motivate me and allow me into your life and express opinions and ideas that hopefully provoke thought, reflection, and maybe a little humor. You're the ones I try to keep informed, interested and entertained. For me, it's been an absolute blast (borrowed that from Larry Bird's retirement speech)! See you in August!

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This article originally appeared on The Providence Journal: Ken Schreiber: College football transfer portal needs NCAA regulations

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