By Pat Harty
IOWA CITY, Iowa – Clemson head football coach Dabo Swinney used the early signing day on Wednesday to deliver a passionate rant about how he feels the NCAA transfer portal is hurting college athletics.
“It’s total chaos right now,” Swinney said of the portal per All Clemson. “Tampering galore. Kids are being manipulated. Grass is greener and all that stuff as opposed to putting the work in and graduating. There’s no consequences. So, now you’ve got agents and NIL, tampering, and you have no consequences. No consequences equals no conscience. There’s no reason for pause, no barrier for young people, like, nothing. Education is like the last thing now.”
Swinney wasn’t finished.
“We’re going to have a lot of young people that aren’t going to graduate,” he said. “Mental health is one of the biggest issues in college. There’s a lot of kids whose identity is wrapped up in football and all this does is further that.
“It’s crazy, it’s really sad, to be honest with you. There’s right around 2,000 kids in the portal and most of them don’t have anywhere to go. There’s so much tampering going on and so many adults manipulating young people.”
Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz was asked about Swinney’s comments on Wednesday and Ferentz echoed much of what Swinney said.
“The portal is kind of like NIL,” Ferentz said in reference to Name, Image and Likeness. “I think we’re all just on the front end right now. We really don’t understand the total ramifications that are going to result here.
“There’s no question. One thing I have seen over the years is there are more and more adults with bad intentions. Or at least, I’ll say they’ve got bad intentions dealing with young people and influencing them in a way that maybe — it’s really no different than going to a little league game where parents are just kind of misguided on what they think is important.”
Though the transfer portal leaves much to be desired, one problem with Swinney’s rant is that kids were transferring, adults were manipulating and tampering, boosters were meddling and head coaches were leaving for other jobs whenever they pleased long before the portal was established in 2018.
The portal has just made it easier and more enticing to transfer, and made it easier for coaches to have something to blame.
The portal took the power away from head coaches and schools and gave it to the student-athlete, and that probably is what bothers Swinney more than anything else.
He has lost some of his leverage.
As for education being last now, that seems a little dramatic coming from a multi-millionaire head football coach whose job is to win games first and foremost.
It’s hard to think of any head coach at the Power 5 level that was able to save his job by compensating for a losing record with incredibly high graduation rates.
Whether education is last right now is a matter for debate.
But it seems pretty obvious that education hasn’t been the first priority in big-time college football for decades.
Head coaches at the Power 5 level are under far more pressure to win games than graduate players.
The transfer portal has been around for barely three years, so it’s still in the transitional stages.
Maybe it’s a case where it will have to get worse before it can get better, and that’s what is happening right now.
Only time will tell.
Whatever the case, Swinney’s rant came across more as self-pity and whining than concern.
Swinney wants you to think that the transfer portal is ruining college football when it mostly has just brought attention to problems that have festered for years.
Mike Leach recently said something that screams double standard.
Leach is known for making weird comments, but his criticism of players who opt out of bowl games was more wrong than weird.
“You’ve got an obligation to the place that helped build and develop you and finish it out in the bowl,” said Leach, who is the head coach for Liberty Bowl-bound Mississippi State. “That’s part of it. You owe it to your team, you owe it to your fans, you owe it to your coaches and it’s the most bizarre thing in the world to me.
“Somebody says, ‘Well, I can’t play one more game.’ They think they’re going to have a storied 10-year NFL career, and then they can’t play one more college game. Well, that’s ridiculous. I mean, guys will go to the NFL, they’ll make the Pro Bowl and then they’ll play in the Pro Bowl. It’s one of the biggest absurdities that I’ve seen, and it’s selfish, too.”
What’s ridiculous is that Leach called out the players who opt out of bowl games, while head coaches such as Brian Kelly and Lincoln Riley can come and go as they please.
Neither Kelly nor Riley stayed long enough to coach in a bowl game this season before taking another job.
Kelly reportedly still was recruiting players for Notre Dame as he worked on the final details of his $95 million contract with Louisiana State.
Why is it that student-athletes in the eyes of some head coaches have an obligation to the place that helped to build and develop them when head coaches don’t?
A college football player risks being injured every time he steps on the field.
For a head coach to overlook that risk in order to push a narrative seems pretty self-serving.
It’ll be interesting to see where Urban Meyer resurfaces after having being fired as the head coach for the NFL’s Jacksonville Jaguars after just 13 games.
It now seems pretty apparent that Meyer was a horrible fit in Jacksonville, with much of it his own doing. And it could just be that Meyer is a horrible fit for the NFL.
That’s why don’t be surprised if Meyer resurfaces at a Power 5 program because he will almost certainly have suitors despite his personal baggage.
College football at the Power 5 level is more concerned about catering to head coaches than to players, while the NFL is just the opposite.
Meyer wasn’t nearly as powerful, or protected at Jacksonville, compared to when he was the head coach for Ohio State and Florida.
His flaws would be forgiven for the sake of trying to build another college powerhouse.
And should he need a quick fix on offense or defense, the transfer portal, despite all of its flaws and its bad influence, would be there to help.