College transfer portals emphasize endorsements, not winning games

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The Florida Gators got some good news Tuesday when quarterback Jack Miller announced he was transferring from Ohio State to play for the Gators next year – just days after Florida starter Emory Jones announced he plans to transfer away from Gainesville.

Terms of their “deals” weren’t released.

College players jump from team to team with the same frequency of a dropped pass by the Jacksonville Jaguars. As a fan, it’s impossible to embrace a college team when the roster changes every year. College rosters always are evolving, but complete overhauls every year is troubling.

For example, guard Charlie Moore now is playing for his fourth college basketball team. He started at California, moved to DePaul, then to Kansas and now he’s playing for the Miami Hurricanes.

Why? Because players have the freedom of movement – and the ability to cash in on the highest bidder.

Anyone who believes college sports is about getting an education is delusional. It’s big business. And with the NCAA’s decision to allow athletes to get their share of the pie, athletes can go to the highest bidder.

A week ago, the top high school prospect shocked the college landscape by changing his commitment to Florida State and signing with Jackson State. A new rule that started on July 1 allows student-athletes to profit from their identities and endorsement deals. Travis Hunter, a running back from Suwanee, Georgia, decided to play at the smaller Historical Black College and University school.

As a program, nobody believes Jackson State has the money to pay Hunter. But if a rich booster wants to throw cash at Hunter, there’s nothing the school can do to stop it – even if they wanted to.

Moments after Hunter’s surprising announcement, many believed Jackson State already set up a Name, Image and Likeness deal with supporters of the athletics department. Head coach Deon Sanders quickly debunked the ploy, but Hunter is free to get paid with endorsements and appearances.

Ole Miss Coach Lane Kiffin doesn’t like pay-for-play, saying “the kids are going to go where they get paid the most.”

“We’re in free agency but there are no contracts,” Kiffin told the Clarion-Ledger newspaper. “I really hope for these kids they’re getting all the money they’re being promised at these schools when they get there. Because there’s a lot of money being promised so I hope for them they get it.”

While athletes should be allowed to control and profit from their likeness, there are massive loopholes in the program. Coaches can use outside endorsements as an additional recruiting tool.

Heisman Trophy-winning Alabama quarterback Bryce Young already had deals worth “seven figures” before he made his first start for the Crimson Tide.

“Our QB has already approached ungodly numbers, and he hasn’t even played yet,” Alabama coach Nick Saban said. “It’s almost seven figures.”

Make no mistake: that was a recruiting pitch for other five-star athletes.

“That number blew me away,” Kiffin said at the SEC preseason press conference.

“I think it’s very challenging to figure out how these things happen, what’s legal, what’s not.”

Central Florida quarterback Dillon Gabriel left the Knights and accepted a “deal” at UCLA after considering offers from Oklahoma.

South Carolina women’s basketball star Aliyah Boston was signed to represent Bojangles, and Penn State offensive tackle Caedan Wallace was hired as a spokesman for a car dealership and athletic clothing store during his freshman season.

Fresno State women’s basketball twins Haley and Hanna Cavinder work for Boost Mobile; Kansas basketball star Mitch Lightfoot is a front man for 1-800-Got-Junk; LSU quarterback Myles Brennan pitches Smoothie King; and, Mission BBQ has the entire Notre Dame offensive line under contract.

Incoming Tennessee State basketball player Hercy Miller had a $2 million endorsement from Web Apps America before he started his freshman season, while Miami quarterback D’Eriq King got $20,000 to be the face of College Hunks Hauling Junk and Moving and Murphy Auto Group.

If a business skips a payment, the players are welcomed to re-enter the transfer portal to find a new deal. That makes college athletics more about bank balances from supporters than building a winning program.

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