James Franklin: NCAA ‘Over-Corrected’ Transfer Process By Implementing Portal
A lot has happened since Penn State head coach James Franklin last spoke to the media immediately following the Citrus Bowl, including the emergence of the NCAA’s transfer portal as one of the biggest stories of the offseason. Penn State had more players explore a transfer from Happy Valley than any other, and Franklin addressed these concerns candidly Wednesday in his signing day press conference.
In years past, coaches could prevent a student-athlete from transferring from their team. Players can now submit their names into a database and begin contacting other teams with no permission needed from their old team’s coaching staff.
“My issue with all of this is when we put new rules in, we over-correct,” he said. “We went from one extreme to the other extreme. Part of the reason we got to this situation is a small number of coaches abusing the ability to block kids from transferring. We went from coaches blocking anywhere to no blocking — free agency.”
Franklin also pitched some ideas to compromise. He suggested allowing coaches to block players from transferring to a hand-picked list of five schools or their team’s future opponents instead of a wide-open transfer portal like the one in place now.
If the transfer portal existed last season, Tommy Stevens likely would’ve thrown his name in the hat. The quarterback sat down with Franklin and expressed his desire to explore his options, and the head coach allowed him to try and find the perfect fit. Of course, Stevens ended up staying in Happy Valley, but his transfer ordeal wasn’t nearly as public as Lamont Wade’s.
The rising junior’s transfer process was very similar to the one Stevens went through, but the biggest difference between the two sagas is another concern.
“Tommy’s situation never really went public,” Franklin recalled. “Lamont’s became public, and with that, there’s a lot of voices, there’s a lot of noise. To his credit, he’s frustrated, he wants to play more, and we want that, too. We talked through these things, and that’s what it should be about.”
Franklin praised Stevens for opting not to take the “path of least resistance” when he decided to return to Happy Valley. That path would’ve been taking a starting job elsewhere instead of waiting his turn to be the Nittany Lions’ starting quarterback. He used that same expression again to detail his concerns with the transfer portal.
The head coach doesn’t necessarily think every good player in a backup role should suck it up until it’s their turn to start. His main takeaway is simple: Players should take the time to weigh their options with the guidance of their parents and/or coach and make the best, most well-informed decision possible based on that.
Although the transfer portal is a different, concerning concept, Franklin won’t let it hurt his team. He used some college basketball programs’ responses to the “one-and-done” rule, which allows players to leave college after just one season, as an example of what he doesn’t want in Happy Valley. Some teams dwelled on the rule instead of adjusting and adapting to the sport’s changing landscape. Franklin vowed to make sure that doesn’t happen to Penn State.
“Over time, some of those programs decided to embrace the new model,” he said. “That’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to embrace the new model and learn to work within it.”
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