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Some Dramatic but Common Sense College Football Recruiting and Transfer Solutions

by on January 24, 2019 5:00 AM


This football offseason the biggest quarterback “free agency” acquisition has already happened and it did not involve Nick Foles. Oklahoma scored the deal of the year in getting Alabama quarterback transfer Jalen Hurts, a proven starter with big-game experience. Some see him as the missing piece in a talented lineup that takes OU from a college football playoff contender to a favorite.

Discussing free agency in college may be extreme, but the new transfer rules are both more confusing and more permissive for the players (and fans). So in the interest of fairness, we seek solutions to the new world order of transferring and recruiting in the age of the Almighty Transfer Portal.

If the lizard people really were running the world they’d probably be moving across time and space in a transfer portal. Honestly that name is almost as bad as the Big Ten’s short-lived Legends and Leaders divisions. (Without looking it up what division was Penn State in?)

We got here through recent transfer rule changes made in response to demands for more freedom of movement for players. Many argued that players should be free to jump to a different school like any other student can. But in fairness to the school, if a player skips town after two years, the school loses well over $100,000 invested in that player.

So is there middle ground?

More players and their families now look at transferring to another school as a business decision. But since college sports should be about education, we can make this more of a business transaction and teach these players about contracts.

So come, enter the Transfer Portal on a journey for common sense solutions to the current state of recruiting and transferring to find a process fairer to everyone involved.

1. Start With Variable Signing Day Contracts:

On signing day a player can sign with a school for a one-year or four-year commitment. The one year commitment gives the player transferring freedom, BUT it also gives the school the option to not renew the player’s scholarship the next year. If a player signs a four-year commitment he and his family get the security of knowing that a college education is paid for but they agree to more restrictive transfer rules. This recognizes the school’s investment in them. If a player wants the freedom to transfer, he takes on an annual risk. If he’s interested in his education, he has the security of the four-year option.

2. Establish a Transfer Period:

Create a transfer period that begins in mid-December. This gives everyone a clear time frame when players and their families can contemplate their future and talk with coaches.

3. Eliminate Early Signing Period AND Move Signing Day Later:  

Push signing day for high school players to the third week in February and don’t start off-campus recruiting for coaches until mid-January. This keeps coaches on campus to welcome back their returning players and consult with the guys on their own team who are considering a transfer. One exception would be allowing a one-time home visit to the family of a player who is considering transferring to or from your school.

4. A New High School Recruiting Calendar:

The off-campus high school recruiting period would run from mid-January until signing day the third week in February. This allows the transfer dust to settle. Teams would know who has left their program and who is coming to their program. It helps them better recruit for need. More importantly it also allows a high school player to know the full rosters of the schools they are looking at. Currently a coach can promise playing time to an incoming freshman who signs in December and three weeks later get a transfer. This calendar eliminates post-signing day transfer surprises.

5. Other Later Signing Day Benefits for Everyone:

Several years ago, the Pac 12 suggested moving the signing day later based on a number of benefits. Schools get a better picture of a player’s academic record and more time to assess character. The players also get more time to focus on their academics and their senior football seasons, and to be better informed making a big decision. It also allows all college coaching changes and the NFL coaching hiring season to play out before players sign with a school.

Certainly these are pretty dramatic changes but with the rapid pace of change in college football it is time to address the calendar in dramatic ways that are fairer to everyone involved.

(And for those wondering about those Big Ten divisions, Penn State was in the Leaders Division and earned a 2011 Leaders Division co-championship.)


State College native and Penn State graduate Jay Paterno is a father, husband and political volunteer. He’s a frequent guest lecturer on campus and at Penn State events and was the longtime quarterbacks coach for the Nittany Lions. His column appears every other Thursday. Follow him on Twitter at
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