The NCAA transfer portal giveth and the NCAA transfer portal taketh away.
In between, in the gray areas afforded by recently-instituted NIL compensation and the one-time transfer waiver, are actions that rate as accelerated rather than unprecedented — back-channel communications by players, agents, handlers, boosters, and other assorted actors attempting to lure talented players into the portal with offers of massive NIL payments.
The saga of Biletnikoff Award-winning Pittsburgh wide receiver Jordan Addison made the new reality apparent over the weekend, with accusations of tampering leveled by the Panther side and reports of angry phone calls from Pittsburgh head coach Pat Narduzzi to USC head coach Lincoln Riley.
Following the May 1 deadline for players to enter their names into the portal to retain eligibility for the 2022 season, the interregnum between that deadline and the 48 hours schools have to officially enter a player’s name into the portal has become an unprecedented battleground as coaches attempt to retain key players while the shadowy networks of booster and NIL collectives rally to match or exceed offers made to those players.
Apologies for burying the lede here, but let that introduction shed some light into what happened on the Forty Acres and beyond as another program made a six-figure offer from at least one school to Texas sophomore wide receiver Xavier Worthy, according to a report by 247Sports.
On Monday evening, as the battle to keep Worthy in Austin began to play out in public, Worthy offered a single image to convey his intentions.
Bag secured, one presumes.
The decision from Worthy comes after a spring during which he explained why he decided to stay at Texas despite the portal’s rich allure.
“(Transferring) wasn’t even a decision,” Worthy said. “I put my trust in Sark so I’m just gonna believe in Sark. I’m not leaving. I put my trust in Sark.”
After recording 62 catches for 981 yards and 12 touchdowns in an outstanding freshman season, Worthy cited the desire to build from his standout season and to win a Big 12 championship as motivating factors.
In the aftermath of missing on TCU transfer edge Ochaun Mathis, Worthy wasn’t the only player Texas coaches and money men needed to secure — according to the same report, junior nickel back Jahdae Barron was also the target of a “significant deal.”
Like Worthy, Barron appears set to remain with the Longhorns in the final hours before the deadline for the school to officially put his name into the portal.
Allowing college athletes to benefit from their NIL rights is unquestionably a crucial and just development. Allowing college athletes a one-time transfer waiver is unquestionably a crucial and just development.
Put together, however, the secondary effects of the current, largely unregulated landscape seem untenable, a difficult circumstance considering the NCAA’s toothless enforcement and history of massively ineffective governance that is likely to come to an ignominious end in the near future.
Nonetheless, a task force of university administrators are meeting to establish guidelines for boosters and collectives in an attempt to regain some control:
The new directives will highlight existing NCAA bylaws that outlaw boosters from participating in recruiting, reminding member schools of guardrails that, while in place for years, have been bent and broken during the first 10 months of the NIL era, officials say. Under a long-held NCAA rule, boosters are a representative arm of an athletic department and are not supposed to associate with or persuade prospects.
Schools violating the guidelines would be subject to punishment, actions likely to spark legal challenges and another massive victory for billable hours.
“We let things get out of hand,” an official told Sports Illustrated. “We have to get [the boosters] out of contacting recruits and bartering with them.”
In moving from what Walter Byers, the first executive director of the NCAA, called a “neo-plantation mentality” to a fully capitalist open market, schools, coaches, and the money-wielding stakeholders are working to manage — or in some cases exploit — the new system until the new guidelines go into effect soon, ahead of the more massive systemic changes to come.
In the last two days, the Longhorns effectively staved off the worst-case defection scenarios, ensuring some relative quietude with the offseason officially looming in the coming hours.