The Wild West of the NCAA:

Transfers, Tampering, and NIL

6-minute read on transfers and tampering

The issue of transferring in football has always been a dramatic one. It spans from the first transfers in the 1800s to the introduction of the transfer portal in 2018. However, COVID-19 exacerbated the issue by laying the groundwork for pro-transfer rule changes which increased entries. This led to controversial transfer windows aimed at controlling the numbers. But perhaps the most pressing matter facing college football as a whole is the relationship between transfers and NIL, along with concerns of tampering.

transfer portal tampering

College Football’s Earliest Scandals

The Wild West of the NCAA: Transfers, Tampering, and NIL

In earliest days of college football there were several controversies regarding paying players and tampering. One notable case occurred in 1905 when the University of Chicago paid a player to transfer from another school. This led to a crackdown on the practice of “ringers,” or players who were not students but played on college teams. In the 1930s, the “Slush Fund” scandal erupted, revealing that several schools were secretly paying players.

Between 1956 and 1983, the NCAA implemented stricter rules and regulations to prevent tampering issues. However, there were still instances where teams were caught violating these rules. One of the most notable cases during this time period was the 1974 Oklahoma Sooners scandal, where several players were caught accepting illegal payments from boosters. As a result, the Sooners were banned from playing in the 1975 season and were stripped of their conference title.

transfer portal tampering

The Death Penalty

The Wild West of the NCAA: Transfers, Tampering, and NIL

In 1987 the SMU football program was found to have engaged in numerous violations, including paying players and recruiting illegally. As a result, the NCAA handed down a two-year ban on the SMU football program, effectively shutting it down for the 1987 and 1988 seasons. This was the first and only time that the NCAA has issued the “death penalty” to a football program.

In recent years, there have been several notable NCAA football penalties enforced coming in 2002 for Alabama and 2011 for Miami. Johnny Manziel was also under investigation for allegedly accepting money for signing autographs, which resulted in a half-game suspension. Years after playing, Reggie Bush was stripped of his 2005 Heisman Trophy. The USC football program was also hit with severe sanctions. This was after it was found that Bush had received improper benefits while playing for the Trojans.


transfer portal tampering

The Battle for NIL

The Wild West of the NCAA: Transfers, Tampering, and NIL

The legal reasons that led to the introduction of Name, Image, and Likeness (NIL) in college sports were primarily centered around the issue of athletes’ rights to profit from their own likeness. Historically, NCAA rules prohibited athletes from receiving any compensation beyond their scholarships. Many felt this was unfair given the massive revenue generated by college sports.

The Name, Image, and Likeness (NIL) rules were created in 2021 by the NCAA and allow college athletes to profit from their personal brand. This meant that athletes could now enter into endorsement deals, sell autographs, and participate in other revenue-generating activities without risking their eligibility.

The successes for players and NIL came early. One example was Miami quarterback D’Eriq King, who signed a deal with College Hunks Hauling Junk worth a reported $20,000. Another example is Ohio State wide receiver Chris Olave, who reportedly signed an endorsement deal with Nike. Alabama quarterback Bryce Young signed multiple endorsement deals worth nearly $1 million before even starting a game.

transfer portal tampering

The Portal and Tampering

The Wild West of the NCAA: Transfers, Tampering, and NIL

One issue that has arisen with the implementation of NIL in college sports is the potential for tampering within the transfer portal. With the new NIL rules in place, student-athletes may be more susceptible to tampering and poaching by other schools looking to lure them away with lucrative NIL deals. Specifically, in late 2022, rumors circulated that North Carolina quarterback Drake Maye had been offered substantial money to enter the portal. Other claims surround the dozens of players who entered the portal and committed to their new school almost immediately as if a deal had been struck prior.

In addition to the issue of tampering within the transfer portal, there are other problems that have emerged with the implementation of the NIL. One concern is that the new rules could exacerbate existing disparities between different sports programs. Powerhouse programs with large fan bases and resources may have a significant advantage in attracting top recruits and transfers with lucrative NIL deals. This is while smaller programs may struggle to compete. This could lead to increased consolidation of talent among a small group of schools, reducing the overall competitiveness.

Another potential problem with NIL is the impact it could have on the educational mission of college sports. Some critics argue that the focus on NIL deals and commercial endorsements could distract student-athletes from their studies. This could lead to a de-emphasis on academics. There are also concerns that the focus on individual player brands could detract from the team-oriented nature of college sports. This is not to mention the possibility of ill-advised NIL deals accidentally making players ineligible.

The landscape of college football is evolving, with significant issues emerging. Yet, it is also becoming increasingly lucrative and attracting more attention than ever before. Calls for greater regulation of the transfer portal and the relationship between it and NIL rules have arisen. This is while others are advocating for players’ autonomy to control their own future and earning potential. With various perspectives on how to navigate these changes, the future of college football remains uncertain, but it is clear that all eyes will be on the sport as it continues to evolve.

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