For College Football, Battle Is between Ideals and Realities

By Collins, Donnie | Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, February 10, 2019 | Go to article overview

For College Football, Battle Is between Ideals and Realities


Collins, Donnie, Tribune-Review/Pittsburgh Tribune-Review


Big-time players leaving a big-time college football teams turned out to be a big story around the nation.

Happy Valley proved to be no exception. Name after name entered the transfer portal -- 18 of them in all, as it turned out -- and Penn State fans reacted as one might imagined they would.

They wondered what possibly could be going wrong in State College. Were the coaches losing the kids? Were the kids losing faith in the program? Was this an anomaly or a sign of the present or the future?

Maybe, coaches were feeling the same kind of thing about some of the players who looked down the road and saw greener grass elsewhere.

"Without getting too much into it, obviously we wish him nothing but the best," one said in regards to a player who decided to leave. "Disappointed to see him leave."

The coach who uttered those words this week wasn't Penn State's James Franklin, talking about a receiver like Juwan Johnson, or a good safety prospect like Isaiah Humphries.

Credit that quote to new Ohio State coach Ryan Day, who watched his top backup quarterback Tate Martel leave the Buckeyes for Miami in January.

Coaches don't enjoy losing the talent they work hard to recruit, and they know the NCAA's turn toward deregulation of transfers that began to take effect in the offseason will cost all of them their share.

But even a guy like Franklin takes no solace a top competitor like Ohio State is suffering the postseason roster shuffling his Nittany Lions are bound to face while the transfer portal settles in as the new normal for big-time college football.

"For me, my concern isn't really about Penn State; I'm worried about college football," Franklin said this week, during a press conference Wednesday at which the state of the game itself overtook the traditional National Letter of Intent Signing Day festivities. "I'm worried about what we're teaching young people. One of the greatest things I think that college football and college athletics teaches is, it's a tremendous complementary aspect to what they're learning in the classroom: The mental toughness, the physical toughness, how to overcome adversity, those types of things.

"I worry that we're creating a situation where it's path of least resistance. And in my life, I don't know if that's ever been the right choice or the right path."

It shouldn't take decades worth of life experience to know Franklin's right. There are two things most young athletes have these days that they didn't have in the past, and one of them is an abundance of advice on how good they are, what their future should hold, and where the best path to that future exists.

That's bad news for coaches.

But the other thing most young athletes have that they didn't in the past are some actual rights.

Which brings up an interesting question: Are the problems coaches and programs are going to face in the future more of an issue than the many decades when players basically had no rights outside of choosing their school?

In the 1970s and 1980s, when a prospect committed to Penn State, he basically signed a five-year contract. …

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