Home - Breaking News, Events, Things-To-Do, Dining, Nightlife


Trying to make sense of NIL and the transfer portal, like it or not

It is the question I get asked most no matter where I go: at a civic club, the barber shop, a tavern, the golf course, the grocery store or just about anywhere else.

Goes like this: So, how do you really feel about name, image and likeness (NIL) and the transfer portal?

Rick Cleveland

Here’s the truth: I hate the combination of the two. I despise what the two, together, have done to college sports, which is rip away the foundation of what the college sports experience was supposed to be about, both for participants and for spectators. Simply put, for me, it is not as much fun as it once was.

I hasten to add, that is not because some athletes are making hundreds of thousands of dollars or that some are becoming rich before they even know what to do with the riches. Ever since college sports became a TV-fueled multi-billion dollar industry, I have believed the athletes should share in the spoils.

Just not this way, with the right to play musical schools on an annual basis depending on who offers the most money. It’s free agency without guidelines and without a salary cap – and really, without any regard for education. The richest schools will get the best players, and the poor will get the hell beat out of them.


I was talking the other day with a wealthy fan of one of our Mississippi universities. He has done really well financially and has always supported his school’s teams and facilities, donating significantly. But he has drawn a line where the NIL is concerned. This is what he told me: “I am not about to donate tens of thousands of dollars to a collective so our star running back can go out and buy himself a Porsche and then drive it off next year to Tuscaloosa or Baton Rouge for a better deal.”

But it’s happening everywhere. In 2019, 6.5% of all Division I football players had transferred at least once. This past season, more than 20% had. More than 2,100 Division I players have entered the portal this year. That figure will continue to rise. To say it doesn’t always work out for those who enter the portal is an understatement. In 2022, of all the college basketball players who entered the portal, nearly 20% wound up without a college scholarship anywhere.

Sports participation teaches many life lessons, one of which is that perseverance and hard work in the face of disappointment will pay off in the end. The portal teaches the opposite. Used to be that if you were a second teamer and weren’t getting on the field or court as much as you desired, you buckled down and worked harder. Now? “Screw this,” they tell the coach, “I’m going in the portal.”

College coaching has changed forever. Tough love is out. Coaching on eggshells is in.

“There’s no holding players accountable,” a retired college basketball coach told me. “Used to, you could use the bench as a motivator. Now, they’ll just leave.”

Here, the biggest news in this football portal season has been Ole Miss running star Quinshon Judkins moving from on to Ohio State after two seasons in Oxford.

Regular readers of this column know how I feel about Judkins’ football abilities and performance. His blend of vision, power, balance, quickness, toughness and speed remind me of my favorite football player ever, Walter Payton. The great linebacker D.D. Lewis once told me Payton was the most difficult to tackle he ever faced. “It hurt to tackle Payton,” D.D. said. “It was like trying to tackle a 215-pound bowling ball.”

Judkins runs like that. When he gets tackled, it hurts the other guy worse than him.

Now, he’s a Buckeye after providing 34 touchdowns and more than 3,000 yards from scrimmage in two seasons at Ole Miss. All indications are that Judkins shopped his availability around the country and that, in the end, he will make less money at Ohio State than he was making at Ole Miss.

Then there’s the case of Will Rogers, the ex-Brandon and Mississippi State quarterback, who had planned to transfer to Washington, this past season’s No. 2 team in the country. But Kalen DeBoer, the Washington coach, has taken the Alabama job and Rogers is back in the transfer portal. 

Fans have had to adjust, too. In 2020, Malik Heath caught the only two Mississippi State touchdowns in a 31-14 loss to Ole Miss. A year later, Heath made just one catch in another Egg Bowl loss to Ole Miss. In 2022, Heath entered the portal and switched sides. He played for Ole Miss, making five catches for 80 yards in the Egg Bowl. State got the last laugh, winning 24-22. Heath, 0-3 in Egg Bowls, now plays for the Green Bay Packers.

Such a switch of allegiances would have been unthinkable in the old days. Not now.

It will take some time to adjust. Not sure I ever will.


Creative Commons License

Republish our articles for free, online or in print, under a Creative Commons license.

This article first appeared on Mississippi Today and is republished here under a Creative Commons license.

Read original article by clicking here.

Local Dining Stream

Things To Do

Related articles