The NCAA’s transfer portal, created primarily as a way to help graduating players with eligibility remaining go somewhere for a final year, is becoming an albatross.
Sam Pittman’s Portal Paranoia is creating some interesting ways of handling things combined with a burning desire to try and keep things locked down as much as possible.
That means he has to constantly be recruiting the players already on the roster to keep them on board.
It’s not his fault. The transfer portal has created a way for the players to quit on their team and coaches. It’s also created a way for coaches to get experienced players who can help fix their problems sooner rather than later.
It is what it is.
Pittman told us Thursday the portal was why he didn’t want the media finding out about assistant coaches leaving until he had already hired a replacement.
“I wanted to make sure I had somebody basically in the building or close to in the building by the time y’all found out that we were losing somebody,” Pittman said. “The reason is because of the transfer portal.”
That means, simply, Pittman didn’t want to figure out a way to tap-dance around what everybody in the media was already talking about and went dark for over a month after the Texas Bowl cancellation.
Having just completed his first year as a head coach he’ll figure out somebody is going to talking to somebody else and it will spread faster than a virus in a close filled with people. We will know before he tells us.
He was paranoid about the players on the team putting their names in the transfer portal, which was kind of curious, at best.
Make of that what you will.
It’s even more interesting with 40 percent of the coaching staff leaving and the guess here is wide receivers coach Justin Stepp was the only one Pittman didn’t encourage to find another job.
That means 30 percent of the staff was probably cut loose and, of course, the impression that Pittman is perfectly willing to let stand is he wanted to upgrade recruiting. The fact is he didn’t really give a reason.
There are whispers one of the assistants had applied for a job on another SEC staff. A couple of position coaches on the defensive side are gone for whatever reason but it doesn’t appear to be for a better job.
And Pittman had an interesting comment about the coaches who are gone.
“They’re really good people, really good men, and we sure hope that they’re able to land wherever they want and get whatever job they want because they’re all fine men,” Pittman said.
In other words, he didn’t want them around anymore, but they are good people.
Stepp, however, he wanted to keep because of his relationship with maybe the most talented position group on the entire team.
Offensive coordinator Kendal Briles knew immediately who he wanted in Kenny Guiton.
Pittman was scared to death some of that talent might jump the gun with the transfer portal, so apparently they were in the dark as much as everybody else. Otherwise, why would it matter?
“As soon as I found out there was a possibility he’s leaving, I went to work on trying to find his replacement,” Pittman said about Stepp. “The day he announced he was leaving was the day we announced we had a new wide receivers coach. That’s no disrespect to anybody. That’s me being concerned about the transfer portal.”
There’s no reason to doubt Pittman Portal Paranoia. It’s affecting everything in college athletics these days and it’s not unique to Arkansas.
It probably shouldn’t be that surprising when it often looks like the grownups are letting teenagers control $100 million a year businesses.
But the likely bottom line is Pittman has to spend every single day doing more recruiting than coaching.
It’s sort of like babysitting teenagers and young adults to keep them from getting on their phone and putting their name on the transfer portal to see where the grass might be greener.
And it’s going to get more interesting.
Just wait until the name, image and likeness stuff gets sorted out.