I’m not going to sit here and pretend like I understand the ins and outs of these two huge, significant issues in college athletics (presumably just college football and basketball), but I don’t know if a lot of people really take the time to research these topics before spouting off about them either. So, why not me?!
I think one thing is pretty clear: college athletics is broken. It’s always been broken, though. Put me in the camp of the kids have been exploited for generations, earning billions upon billions of dollars for schools and the NCAA, while the benefits of a college scholarship don’t outweigh how these kids have been chewed up and churned through over the years.
So, at the very least, the NIL has been a long time coming. Let a kid make money off of his name, image, and likeness; what the fuck does the NCAA care? I don’t have the problem with it that a lot of people do.
I know one of the arguments against it has to do with certain schools – and certain conferences – having an unfair advantage, by having boosters who are willing to over-spend to bring in the best talent. But, those unfair advantages have been around since the beginning. Now, instead of money being slid under tables, it’s out in the open (to a bigger degree; I don’t think it’ll ever be truly transparent). The NIL thing isn’t a perfect system, and I can’t even say with any certainty that it’s better than what we had before, but it’s arguably on the right track.
My concern is that we’ll never get college athletics to the point where it should be, where it’s just a semipro league for football and basketball, with contracts and salary caps and actual fucking oversight into where all the money is coming from and where it’s going. College athletics before was the wild west, and instead of becoming more civilized, NIL has made things more out of control than ever.
What bums me out is the transfer portal. I’m not against it in theory, but in practice it just sucks the joy out of being a fan.
It’s one thing to sign with a school, then that coach moves on, and you decide to opt out because you never agreed to play for whoever is coming in. And I get the frustration from a kid who’s riding the pine and wants to go somewhere where he can actually see some action. But, now it’s morphed into this yearly excuse for players to leave on a whim. And worse, it’s morphed into coaches needing to not only recruit newcomers, but to recruit their own guys (while coaches also recruit other school’s players to get them to flip).
There was too hard a line before: where, if you left a school, you had to sit out a full year. But, now it’s too soft, and literally everyone is up for grabs.
As a Husky basketball fan, I’ve experienced the highs and lows of this new system. In the 2020/2021 season, the Huskies were as bad as I’ve ever seen them. Following that lost year, a bunch of players departed, and it was absolutely for the best: they all stunk. This was addition by subtraction to the perfect degree. Mike Hopkins was able to bring in a bunch of players through the transfer portal, and the 2021/2022 season was far more enjoyable as a result. I mean, granted, it’s not like we made any sort of post-season tournament. But, we were far more competitive and fun during the regular season, and sometimes that’s enough.
What’s more, it sort of felt like we were on the right track. Maybe, with a few key additions, we COULD parlay that into a return to the Big Dance. Sure, it was always going to be something of a longshot, but it wasn’t crazy to dream that dream.
Then, recently, word came down that Emmitt Matthews was departing. He was one of those transfer portal guys we brought back home last season; after the one year, he’s returning to West Virginia, for reasons that I don’t fully understand. He was a starter and a key player for the Huskies. He was set to continue being a starter, as we really didn’t bring in anyone to vie for his minutes. He was great in our system and had room to grow.
Probably, from his perspective, if his goal is to win – and to get more eyeballs on his game – he has a better chance on the Mountaineers. I guess I get that. But, this isn’t a fucking Baskin Robbins where you stand there tasting all of the 31 flavors! Fucking pick a school and stick with it! Clearly there was a reason why you left West Virginia in the first place; what makes you think it’s going to be good now?
I’m just sad and pissed off. The difference between an NCAA Tourney berth or not isn’t Emmitt Matthews; he’s a role player. But, he was one of my favorite Huskies to root for last year, and I’m annoyed that he opted to leave. If the NCAA had proper contracts for players, you wouldn’t see this as often, and you wouldn’t see other schools sniffing around trying to poach your guys.
I’m not mad at anyone in particular. The players have the right, the coaches are only doing their jobs by enabling boosters or whoever to go and recruit players from other teams; this is the system that’s in place and everyone who can take advantage WILL take advantage. I’m just mad at the system, and there’s nothing I can do about it.
And, the thing is, it’s only going to get worse. I don’t think I’ll ever see a day where the Washington Huskies are national champions in football or men’s basketball. That’s kind of a bummer. That’s not just because of the transfer portal or NIL, but those things certainly play a part. It’s just hard to adjust your expectations. You look at the professional sports leagues and can see a reasonable path to a championship one day. Hell, if the Cincinnati Bengals can make a Super Bowl, then ANYONE in ANY pro league can do it. Even the lousy, fakakta Mariners.
But, not the Huskies. The best we can possibly hope for is a conference championship. Yet, who’s confident we’re going to get there with Mike Hopkins, or this new coaching staff for the football team? You mean the guy from Fresno, and before that some Dakota school? Oh yeah, I’m sure he’s the next Nick Saban just waiting to happen.