Transfer portal tampering frustrates SEC coaches, but few - if any - ideas on how to stop it
By RALPH D. RUSSO
DESTIN, Fla. (AP) South Carolina coach Shane Beamer lost some key contributors from the Gamecocks' eight-win team to the transfer portal this offseason.
In a few cases, it seemed as if things moved pretty quickly.
“It was strange based on conversations I’d had with guys two or three days before they went in the portal. It’s interesting how things happen,” Beamer said this week at the Southeastern Conference spring meetings.
NCAA rules state schools cannot recruit athletes who are currently on another team's roster.
But with college football players freer to transfer than ever before - and name, image and likeness compensation opportunities being dangled - coaches are frustrated the recruiting starts even before the name pops up in the portal.
SEC coaches all say tampering is more prevalent than ever, but there are few - if any - ways to stop it.
“The chaos we’re experiencing is the result of pulling back of regulations,” Vanderbilt coach Clark Lea said.
Every school is intensely scouting the portal these days, and increasingly NFL-style personnel departments in college programs are trying to identify players who they would be interested in IF they decide to transfer.
That inevitably has led to broad complaints about coaches contacting players in an effort to lure them into the portal.
"The NFL deals with it, don’t they? Major League Baseball deals with it. That’s something that I wish you could. Because I think that is an issue. I think that is a big issue. And it’s unfair to different levels of schools,” Texas A&M coach Jimbo Fisher said.
He added: “If they get caught, there should be severe penalties.”
Two main reasons tampering is hard to stop: It is difficult to prove and coaches are cautious about turning in their colleagues and potentially damaging a player's eligibility.
“Rumors are one thing,” Beamer said. “Proof is another thing.”
South Carolina lost leading rusher MarShawn Lloyd to Southern California, tight end Jaheim Bell and defensive end Gilber Edmund to Florida State, and defensive lineman Jordan Burch to Oregon.
Also, what exactly is tampering?
Georgia coach Kirby Smart said what's happening isn't new, it's just occurring more frequently because there are so many more players transferring now that underclassmen no longer are required to sit out a season before being eligible to play.
“So look, if kids are exploring to leave, it’s really hard to police. Ask the NCAA,” Smart said. “If a kid goes to his trainer or high school coach, well, in our program we have people talking to those trainers and high school coaches. Word of mouth spreads that a guy’s not happy and he’s looking. Next thing you know he’s in the portal and he’s already got somewhere that he wants to go.”
The two-time defending national champions only dabble in the portal to supplement a roster full of blue-chip recruits. This year Smart brought in two receivers from other SEC schools, landing RaRa Thomas from Mississippi State and Dominic Lovett from Missouri.
Georgia also lost one of the most intriguing players to enter the portal during the spring transfer window when defensive tackle Bear Alexander left for USC.
This past school year was the first with portal windows for each sport. For football, there is a 45-day window that opens after the regular season ends and a 15-day window that starts in mid-April.
“Some of the behaviors that really raise questions about tampering and the use of NIL, those seem to happen later as the portal drags on, though not exclusively,” SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey said. “The observation from our coaches is, ‘Can we reduce those windows?’ I think there’s a need to engage."
Arkansas coach Sam Pittman said he has called coaches he believes have tampered with players on his roster.
“However, once you make that call it's already too late, because the kid is already gone,” Pittman told reporters.
Coaches air their grievances but almost always stop short of publicly calling out those they suspect - or know - are tampering.
Pitt coach Pat Narduzzi was one of the few who didn't shy away from a public confrontation when the Panthers lost star receiver Jordan Addison to USC last spring.
“But the business is all about if you make somebody mad, you cut that possibility of a job market off your resume,” Pittman said.
To some extent with tampering, coaches say they know it when they see it.
“Anybody that comes into your office and says, ‘Hey, I’m going to go into the portal, and the next day they already know where they're going ... probably had a conversation or two before then,” Pittman said.
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Updated June 1, 2023