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Bock: How Do You Fix the Transfer Portal in College Basketball?

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Photo Kelsie LeRose / WVSN

MORGANTOWN, W. Va. – Ah, the transfer portal, where anybody can enter and never return.

West Virginia has been hit hard once again in basketball with a trio of departures in Jalen Bridges, Isaiah Cottrell, and most recently Sean McNeil. Now, the Mountaineers are left with just one player from the 2020-21 team that appeared in the NCAA Tournament in Kedrian “Keddy” Johnson.

The transfer portal has become a problem in college basketball after the NCAA granted one free transfer waiver to all players. According to Verbal Commits, the transfer numbers have skyrocketed over the last 10 years.

YearNumber of Transfers
2012577
2013672
2014752
2015829
2016800
2017904
2018883
2019987
20201013
20211728
20221027+

This rule has created conflict where kids start looking to go elsewhere when inconvenience enters. Cottrell and Bridges left due to not being happy with minutes and playing out of position. For McNeil, he might have just wanted a fresh start for his final season of college basketball, who knows.

West Virginia is in this awkward position where they aren’t a blue blood school but they aren’t a mid-major either. So players can transfer down to a lower level when they don’t receive playing time or transfer up to a blue blood caliber program when they think the grass is greener. This isn’t just happening to Bob Huggins. Neal Brown over in the football program is dealing with the same issue. Guys like Oscar Tshiebwe, Tykee Smith, Dreshun Miller and now potentially Bridges are transferring from West Virginia to bigger programs.

Unfortunately, this isn’t a WVU problem, it’s a college athletics problem. The silver lining is that everybody entering the transfer portal can only do so once without having to sit out. If Bridges or Cottrell enter the portal again, they’ll have to sit a year out just like the old rules. The numbers should tend to decrease slightly as the years go on. Maybe the NCAA during this time can find a way to keep the athletes, coaches and fans happy.

This is how I would do it.

  • One free transfer only after freshman year
  • Need a waiver to transfer during the rest of college
  • Athletes get the free graduate transfer like usual

This is one way you can keep everyone happy. Athletes would still get the freedom to transfer without sitting out, but they would only be allowed to do it in between their freshman and sophomore seasons. Coaches would only have to recruit kids up until after their freshman year, not every year like it is now. If someone wants to leave in their sophomore, junior or senior seasons, they would need a waiver from the NCAA to do so without sitting out. Before the transfer portal became what it is now, the main conflict was that the NCAA was not consistent with their waiver handling. Some guys wouldn’t have to sit out while some guys did. It created too much controversy. That’s for the NCAA to figure out.

I think it’s fair to say that the majority of people are against how lenient the transfer rules are. It takes away some of the colligate loyalty that student athletes used to play for. It doesn’t seem anymore that guys play for their school, it’s a business now. Luckily for Huggins and his team, they still have that traditional college basketball player.

“I made a good decision. I know [I could’ve gone to another school] but I didn’t want to do that though,” Kedrian “Keddy” Johnson said. “I’m smooth where I’m at.”

There’s still hope for loyalty in college athletics. For Huggins, he feels for the fans as it’s rare now to fall into a connection with a player.

“I think it’s hard on fans,” Huggins said. “As kids, you take those pictures and you put them up on your wall and you hang them up on your door.”

The last four-year seniors to graduate from West Virginia were Chase Harler and Logan Routt in 2020. It’s 2022 and the longest tenured Mountaineer basketball player is Johnson. The transfer portal is a good base to keep players happy, but it needs to find some stability to keep the traditional feel of college sports.

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Ethan Bock is pursuing his bachelor’s degree in journalism at WVU. He currently is an intern with the Final Fourcast podcast. Ethan has covered WVU football and men’s basketball for the last year. He is from Cincinnati, Ohio.

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