Notre Dame & Portal Chaos

Things are changing fast in the landscape of college football. From conference re-allignment, NIL deals, the playoff expansion, and of course transfer portal chaos, it’s a lot to consider and stay on top of. None of these changes are small. They are all massive changes that severely alter how teams are recruited, built, and developed.

Understanding the changes and keeping up with them is one thing, but then enters the next logical question fans have. How do these changes affect “my team?” Who is in a position to take advantage of these new angles and what happens to programs that are slow to adapt?

Let’s take a look at some things to consider in regard to Notre Dame’s positioning in the “Wild West” of the transfer portal era.


Embrace Or Get Left Behind

Nov 26, 2022; Los Angeles, California, USA; Notre Dame Fighting Irish head coach Marcus Freeman reacts against the Southern California Trojans in the first half at United Airlines Field at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

I’m “old school” when it comes to college football in many regards. Many folks are, especially within the Notre Dame fan base where tradition and history reign and always will. Along these lines, many fans of college football now feel that the transfer portal with no limitations is bad for the game. That there is no more “student” in the term “student-athlete” but rather simply free agents looking for a quick path to the NFL or a NIL deal.

While these are valid concerns many purists have, to a certain extent, it doesn’t matter what we think. The reality now is that if your program is unwilling or unable to join in the transfer portal wave to a noticeable extent, you will not be able to compete at the highest level. It’s simply going to be impossible. If other teams have full recruiting classes AND a plethora of transfers yearly to help fill needs and you don’t. You can’t compete. Teams must embrace this trend or get left behind. Period.

Administrative Flexibility Is Key

Notre Dame head football coach Marcus Freeman holds a helmet while posing for a portrait with University president John I. Jenkins and Athletic Director Jack Swarbrick during a news conference Monday, Dec. 6, 2021 at the Irish Athletic Center in South Bend, Ind. Notre Dame formally introduced Freeman as its new football coach, a meteoric rise for the defensive coordinator. (Michael Caterina/South Bend Tribune via AP)

It’s no secret that Notre Dame values education to an extent most “football factories” do not. High test scores, exceptional grades, and character are a requirement for undergraduate admission for all students. This is something Notre Dame fans are very proud of and should be. Nobody is asking for that to end or be diminished as a core value of the institution.

What this does though places Notre Dame at a disadvantage in these “portal races”. For both athletes and non-athletes, transferring to Notre Dame as an undergrad is a challenge and is rare. Often times there are issues with credits from previous schools not “counting” in Notre Dame’s eyes. The University must find a way to streamline this process so that it can be slightly more reasonable for admission and also have the physical process of vetting potential transfers modernized and sped up. These are musts for Notre Dame to compete moving forward.


A Fine Line

On the surface, the “grab as much available talent from anywhere and bring them in now” mentality sounds like a great idea, but I do think there are some risks involved in this process that must be carefully analyzed and processed.

Culture is a big deal in college football. It is the foundation from which all things healthy or unhealthy promulgate. Mixing large amounts of players who were organically recruited from within a program with large amounts that come in seemingly out of nowhere mid-career can cause instability if everyone is not on the same page and or is not properly vetted for “culture fit”. This is something that must be appreciated and managed properly by everyone involved.

Coaches Not Kings Anymore

Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports

For essentially the entire history of modern college football, coaches were kings. They had ultimate power over who plays, how much and when. And if a player didn’t like it they had to sit out of year to leave and play somewhere else. That is over now, and it is causing a major headache for coaches who are used to having all the power.

Gone are the days of a 4-5 star recruits going to a school laden with such stars in classes ahead of them and waiting their turn, developing, learning, paying their dues, etc. Now, if those players aren’t seeing the field as soon as they want, they can simply just leave and go play somewhere else right away. Coaches are struggling with this change. They simply cannot “hold players hostage” anymore. This is becoming a clash of egos between coaches and recruits that must be navigated carefully.

Effect On Traditional Recruiting

CJ Carr

One thing I do not hear people discussing much but that I think will soon come into play is the effect the free and open portal may have on traditional recruiting in the future. I feel that there may be less scholarships available for high schoolers moving forward.

There are going to be some coaches that would rather offer scholarships to “known entities” from the portal than take the time to recruit and develop complete unknowns that are coming from high school. As this happens more and more there will be fewer slots for mid to lower-rated recruits that coaches don’t want to take the time to develop when there is a guy in the portal with experience and a known skill set. This is another tricky dynamic I can see emerging shortly.

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Story originally appeared on Fighting Irish Wire