Recently Ohio State football has seen a number of players announce that they were leaving the program. Wide receiver Jameson Williams is moving on to Alabama, Max Wray is headed west to Colorado, and yesterday Tyreke Johnson announced he is entering the transfer portal. College athletics has changed dramatically even from what we saw five years ago when it comes to transfers.
Officially in the portal.— tyreke johnson (@Im_showtime_) May 12, 2021
Some transfer moves are met with vitriol from some fans — shouldn’t be happening no matter the circumstances — let alone in the midst of a pandemic. It’s easy for Joe Buckeye to call a player transferring out of Ohio State a quitter when he has spent half of his life on his couch, never amounting to anything. It’s easy to be critical of others when the only skill that you have is tearing down other people.
Sometimes a program that a recruit has committed to out of high school just might not be the right fit after they spend some time there. Of course coaches are going to be on their best behavior when trying to get an athlete to commit to their school, but things often change dramatically when a student-athlete finally steps on campus.
What if the coach promises a certain amount of snaps, or a team will play a particular type of offense, only to fail to deliver on those promises? A player should be able to move on without penalty to a place that will better utilize his skills. There’s not many chances for players to impress scouts to possibly get a shot at the next level, so they have to make sure to get the most of those opportunities.
Not that Buckeye Nation didn’t have some fun with Tate Martell transferring to Miami after Justin Fields came to Ohio State from Georgia. It was pretty tough to not make jokes about it, especially after some of the smack talk that Martell laid out there, only to leave the program before even trying to battle Fields for the starting spot. Martell was doing what he thought was best for him, and it’s hard to find any fault with that. The move didn’t work out for him, but life doesn’t always go according to plan.
One transfer move that did work out for an Ohio State quarterback was Joe Burrow’s move to LSU. After it became clear that Dwayne Haskins had won the starting job following the departure of J.T. Barrett, Burrow decided the best move for him was to take his talents to Baton Rouge. All Burrow did was win the Heisman Trophy, a national title, and selected with the first pick in last year’s NFL Draft. It’s hard to see him having the same success had he stayed at Ohio State.
Another thing that bothered me back when a player had to sit out a year after transferring was coaches didn’t have to sit out a year when they took another job. While there was likely a buyout for the coach, you have to imagine that the school that they were moving to would be taking care of at least a portion of the buyout.
How are you going to penalize a player because the coach who recruited him decided to take a job that advances their career? What if the new coach had interacted with the player in recruiting and there was an incident that made the coach sour on the player? At least now there is an out for the player to get him into a more favorable program.
I know there’s going to be a lot of “back in my day” revisionist history from fans when it comes to transfers. There were a lot of things that went on in the past that have been phased out. Times change, and college athletics should be changing with them. The NCAA has had trouble changing with the times in the past, but at least they realized that 2021 is a lot different from 1991, 2001, and even 2011.
So next time before a player decides to transfer from Ohio State, or a transfer doesn’t choose to play for the Buckeyes, remember that they are doing what is best for them and their future. As much as you may love Ohio State and Columbus, somebody might feel that way about somewhere else in the country.
Even though I love Ohio State and sports in general, I’m a bigger fan of somebody being mentally healthy. D.J. Carton left Ohio State for Marquette to be closer to home and his comfort zone. Anyone who needs to make the same type of move should be able to do. College athletes are already dealing with enough between classes and competitions, anything we can be doing to help their mental health and future well-being should be a top priority.
In the end, we are all human beings, and should treat each other as such. Now more than ever, compassion and understanding is needed. The NCAA has taken a step to help with that with a no-penalty transfer. Now if we can become more accepting of players’ moves if they decide to leave your favorite school, then we’ll really be on the right track. If you want to criticize their moves when they are professionals, then have at it. Until then, remember they are just amateurs.