by Jim Buzzerd
If you’re anything like me and numerous other college athletics fans I’ve spoken with, the transfer portal and the name, image, likeness rules have turned the college game into something resembling pro sports. I have nothing against professional sports. Over the years I’ve been a big fan of Major League Baseball, the NBA and the NFL.
Of those three professional sports, the NFL is the only league I’ll still carve out time to watch. The grueling length of major league baseball games combined with the fact that my favorite team from my childhood, the Baltimore Orioles, have been abysmal has turned me away from baseball for many years. I’ve watched very little of the NBA regular season, but now that the league is in the playoffs, I’ll watch a lot more.
Now college athletes can make money through NIL rules that allow players to profit from their success in the athletic arena. The NIL rule wasn’t designed to become a play for pay vehicle, but it’s quickly becoming that. Former West Virginia basketball player, Oscar Tshiebwe, transferred to Kentucky and was the NCAA Player of the Year last season. It has been reported that Tshiebwe will receive $2 million in NIL money to return to Kentucky next season.
In Texas there are reports that some benefactor, or benefactors, put together a NIL package that will pay each Longhorn offensive lineman $50,000. Many have suspected many of these blueblood schools of paying players under the table for years. Now it’s legal and it stands to reason that the schools previously engaged in paying players will have an advantage in this new environment.
Mix in the transfer portal and rules that now allow college athletes to transfer without penalty and we essentially have unrestricted free agency where players can go to the highest bidder. West Virginia has lost a couple players in recent months, but none more significant than top defensive lineman Akheem Mesidor who entered the portal last month and committed to Miami last week. It’s not known how much in NIL money was used to lure Mesidor to south Florida, but tampering is widely suspected.
There are a number of written opinions out there for you to consume if interested. One opinion I agree with is the NIL will cause a split in Division 1 football and change the make up of the Power Five. Essentially, the suggestion is 30 to 48 schools will become play for pay and the rest will try to compete the best they can.
Where will WVU end up in the new era?
I’d like to think West Virginia can still strive to compete at the highest level, but the Mountaineers have been to one final four in nearly 60 years and haven’t sniffed a Big 12 football championship since joining the conference 10 years ago, so it’s accurate to say WVU has struggled to reach the heights they desire. Yeah, quite often competitive, but clearing the bar has been a different story. It will only get harder now.
While we’re on players and the transfer portal, a couple former WVU basketball players have found new homes. Fairmont native Jalen Bridges will head to Texas and play for Baylor. Sean McNeil has committed to Ohio State. It will definitely be interesting to see how these two work in a system other than head coach Bob Huggins’ system. Even more interesting will be the progress of Isiah Cottrell who has visited Washington and UNLV.