Dabo Swinney on Transfer Portal: 'Tampering Galore. Kids Being Manipulated'

Tim Daniels@@TimDanielsBRFeatured Columnist IVDecember 15, 2021

COLUMBIA, SOUTH CAROLINA - NOVEMBER 27: Head coach Dabo Swinney of the Clemson Tigers looks on during warm ups before their game against the South Carolina Gamecocks at Williams-Brice Stadium on November 27, 2021 in Columbia, South Carolina. (Photo by Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images)
Jacob Kupferman/Getty Images

Clemson head football coach Dabo Swinney lamented the current state of the NCAA transfer portal given the new name, image and likeness (NIL) rules and suggested a return of the one-year waiting period to become eligible at a new school.

Swinney told reporters Wednesday the current structure takes away from education and puts student-athletes at risk of manipulation:

"It's crazy, it's really sad to be honest with you. There's right around 2,000 kids in the portal and most of them don't have anywhere to go. There's so much tampering going on and so many adults manipulating young people. It's sad, but you know, it it what it is from that standpoint. You've got a lot of young people that ... there's a time and a place, but most of the kids are in there when they shouldn't be in there.
"Some are and some shouldn't. Some of the lessons we're teaching young people I don't think is going to benefit them well as they move through their life. It is something everybody has to manage and deal with. There's no consequences. There's no rules. I'm all for transferring. I personally think we should let them go whenever they want. I just think they should sit a year and then you get that year back upon graduation. What we've done is decentivize and devalue education and I think that's the wrong approach."

Once it became clear college athletes would finally be free to sign NIL deals, a long-awaited outcome accelerated by a Supreme Court ruling in June, the next question was whether there'd be a uniform set of guidelines for all schools or if it'd become the Wild West. So far the answer is the latter.

Although some athletes have signed individual endorsement contracts and other NIL agreements, the biggest use of the ability to pay college athletes has been boosters providing either team-wide or group deals.

One recent agreement that generated headlines was the nonprofit group Horns With Heart offering $50,000 annually to all Texas offensive linemen who worked with local charities.

While Horns With Heart told Jim Vertuno of the Associated Press they will follow all guidelines respective to making sure players who are paid actually contribute in the community, those types of deals have raised questions about whether smaller schools will get lost in a financial bidding war.

Former Iowa State and Auburn head coach Gene Chizik, who currently works as an ESPN analyst, raised that issue Tuesday on Twitter:

Gene Chizik @CoachGeneChizik

Every scholarship offensive lineman at UT will get $50,000/yr with new NIL deal. Not to mention the 200,000 education. Americans struggle finding $50,000 jobs to feed their children. Next it’s 100,000/player with no end in sight. Flawed system!!!! Most $$ wins!<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/WordsofChizdom?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#WordsofChizdom</a>

Part of the counterargument is centered on the endless movement of coaches around the country—leaving a program at a moment's notice for a more lucrative contract elsewhere, something that's already happened several times this year.

High school players are going to face difficult decisions in the years ahead with all the money now being thrown around.

The most common question they'll likely face is whether to take guaranteed money at a high-profile school, where they may end up buried on a depth chart behind other prized prospects, or go to a smaller program that may not have as much NIL backing but could be better for their long-term development as a player.

Swinney predicted Wednesday the overwhelming attention on football and the connected NIL opportunities will decrease the focus on graduation and, over time, create other issues for student-athletes that won't make them "truly equipped" for life after college football:

"We're going to have a lot of young people that aren't going to graduate. Mental health is one of the biggest issues in college. There's a lot of kids whose identity is wrapped up in football and all this does is further that. When they get to these other places and they think the grass is greener and they realize the mirror traveled with them, I think a lot of kids are going to suffer. I think graduation rates are going to go down and it'll be interesting to see where that is five years from now, 10 years from now."

So far, the NCAA's interim NIL guidelines posted after the Supreme Court's ruling delegated most of the responsibility to individual schools based on their respective state laws, and there hasn't been a sustained push to centralize the rapidly evolving environment.