A Warning From A WVU Coach Who Has Plenty Of Experience In The Transfer Realm
At some point in the not-too-distant future, FBS football and men’s basketball underclassmen may get the right to transfer to a new school once in their careers without having to sit out a year.
That potential change was considered this spring, but the NCAA Division I Board of Directors did not recommend the one-time transfer waiver for this year.
That waiver would allow student-athletes in not only football and men’s basketball, but also women’s basketball, baseball and men’s ice hockey, the opportunity to transfer and compete immediately at their new school. Student-athletes in all other NCAA sports already have the opportunity to transfer without having to sit out a year in residency.
While the Board did not recommend the one-time transfer waiver for this year, it does seem passage of that legislation is likely to come fairly soon, possibly as early as the summer of 2021.
One West Virginia University coach who deals with immediate-eligible transfers on a regular basis is volleyball’s Reed Sunahara.
He’s not a big fan.
And he doesn’t think Mountaineer football coach Neal Brown or men’s basketball coach Bob Huggins will be either if or when it comes to their sports.
“How do you manage a roster like that?” asked Sunahara of the widespread transfers that have affected his sport. “My advice to football is good luck. It’s tough with the landscape now with these kids. If they are disgruntled, they are going to leave.”
Transferring has been around throughout the history of college athletics, but it has seemingly picked up in frequency since the NCAA opened the Transfer Portal in the fall of 2018, allowing student-athletes who desire to leave their current school the opportunity to enter a database for all other colleges to see.
“The portal is not great,” stated Sunahara. “They have to change something, whatever it is. It’s just too easy for them to transfer.”
Sunahara’s program has posted a 61-91 record since he arrived in 2015. His 2019 club was 12-17 but out of that 17-person squad, only three were seniors. Another five Mountaineer underclassmen entered the transfer portal after the 2019 campaign. None remain listed on WVU’s roster.
“We don’t want to be called a farm team,” Sunahara said. “It’s just the landscape right now, and everyone is going through it. You train the kids, and they get better, but then they want to leave.”
According to Sunahara, a coach can’t compromise his principles just to make one or two players happy, though.
“You heard Huggs before, right? What happened when he did it? It didn’t work,” stated Sunahara, recalling West Virginia’s disastrous 15-21 men’s basketball season of 2018-19. “I have my system and my principles. We were successful at Cincinnati (where he was 289-109 as the Bearcats’ head coach from 2000-11) doing that. I know times have changed, but we have to keep doing that.”
Of course, transfers can be a two-way street. WVU’s volleyball program added Emmy Ogogor from Illinois State and Alison Thomas from Cleveland State this past semester.
“We’re on (the portal) all the time,” Sunahara explained. “We’re watching who is transferring and who is not and who is available. If we’re not doing that, shame on us. Everyone is doing that. Everyone is on the portal.
“Here is the thing, there are so many in the portal that I don’t know if there are enough scholarships to go around for all these kids,” he added. “For me, the grass isn’t always greener. What are we teaching them if they can transfer and do all that stuff? It’s not always a bad thing, but it’s also not a great thing. What lessons are we teaching these kids? When things get hard, they’ve got to overcome that and suck it up.”
Sunahara recruits transfers himself, but he’s obviously not a big fan of the increasing traffic from those moving from school to school.
His displeasure with the process should come as a warning for those in the other five sports that currently don’t allow a one-time immediate eligibility for all transfers but likely will in another year or two.