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OPINION: The era of college football’s free agency and what it means for the sport

Darnell Salomon (3) entered his name in the NCAA transfer portal Wednesday, according to 24/7Sports. ORACLE FILE PHOTO

It’s the wild west of college football — unofficial free agency.


Yep, that’s what I’m calling it.

Two of USF’s former backup quarterbacks have already announced their transfer plans — Chris Oladokun to Samford and Brett Kean to UNC Charlotte.

But one of USF’s four-star receivers, Darnell Salomon, put his name in the NCAA transfer portal Wednesday, according to 24/7Sports.

Salomon’s decision essentially reopens his recruiting but he’ll likely have a much different experience now that he has some college play under his belt, mostly because the rules will be different this time.

As prospective college athletes, there are several strict rules for when coaches can contact high school students, how many official (paid for) visits the students can take (up to five) and when coaches aren’t allowed to talk to students at all.

These rules seem to go out the window once the student-athlete has suited up for a college team.

It’s time the NCAA gives everyone access to the movement of athletes who plan to transfer and that the players have some limitation on their experience in the uncharted waters of college free agency.

For whatever reason, be it a lack of playing time or a star-studded incoming freshman designed to replace a player, this college football offseason has been a whirlwind of dramatic changes to rosters.

All of these high-profile transfers are changing the way college football is played along with how fans follow the sport. Instead of following a team, some fans will follow an athlete. With the impending legalization of sports gambling, I’m sure we’ll start to see betting odds of where some players end up transferring next offseason.

Now, it seems coaches will have to balance recruiting so they won’t scare off their current players while trying to build its team for the next two to three years.

Former Georgia quarterback Justin Fields was a five-star recruit in high school. He was ranked No. 2 nationally out of all high school football players. All of that buzz surrounding Fields and he still didn’t start for Georgia his freshman year.

Fields announced his intent to transfer and later signed with Ohio State, which prompted the former-Buckeye quarterback Tate Martell to announce a transfer of his own. Martell is now with Miami.

But these are just two examples of transfer stories. Enter the NCAA’s transfer portal — a new online database that student-athletes can use to announce their desire to transfer without any commitment. In years past, students used to have to get their current school to sign off on their release so they could be eligible to transfer. Now, they can log on and declare themselves “on the market.”

The transfer portal restricts access to just some school administrators, according to The Athletic. Recruiting coordinators can access the database and see who is available at any time of the day, but the information is not available to the public.

One sports recruiting site, 24/7Sports, has created their own transfer portal that is available to the public, but it is unclear where the information comes from.

Former Auburn wide receiver and Tampa Catholic product Nate Craig-Myers announced his intention to transfer from the SEC school after playing for two seasons. The four-star high school recruit’s phone “started to light up” after the announcement, a source close to Craig-Myers said.

Craig-Myers allegedly had coaches from around the country offering him visits, but he ended up deciding to transfer to Colorado State, where he will be able to play after two or three games, according to head coach Mike Bobo via a press conference in December.  

The same goes for graduate transfers.

After the CFP National Championship game, reports claimed former Alabama quarterback Jalen Hurts had meetings with Maryland, Miami and Oklahoma all within a three-day span. Hurts later signed with Oklahoma.  

Told by #UM source Alabama QB Jalen Hurts met with coaches today and was having dinner at Prime 112. He visited Maryland (Friday) and Oklahoma (Saturday) over the weekend.

— Manny Navarro (@Manny_Navarro) January 14, 2019

Another source said that transferring in college football is a “free for all” and that students can take as many visits as they want.

Some of last season’s powerhouse programs will have dramatically different depth charts and some teams, like Miami, that struggled with certain positions, will have highly-touted players in key positions where they were absent this season.

The NCAA has clear rules for the recruitment of high school athletes, so why would there not be explicit rules for recruiting transfer students? After pouring through the NCAA Division I rulebook, I found entries about the eligibility of transfer students but could not find a single entry about the rules of recruiting transfer students.