If Pac-12 Schools In California Can’t Play Football, Will Top Tier Talent Enter Transfer Portal?

May 15, 2020, 1:06 PM | Updated: Jun 3, 2020, 1:30 pm
Paul Finebaum...
TV/radio personality Paul Finebaum of the SEC Network speaks on air before the Goodyear Cotton Bowl at AT&T Stadium on December 31, 2015 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)
(Photo by Scott Halleran/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – College football is barreling forward to its most uncertain season, arguably ever, with what teams can play or not play and which areas of the country are deemed safe to play.

For example, Florida and Arizona are open for sports but then the California State University system says that the majority of classes will be online in the fall and that impacts Fresno State, San Diego State, and San Jose State of the Mountain West. Plus, Los Angeles County is on a stay at home order through mid-August and that means USC and UCLA are not going to have enough time to practice for their season openers.

Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott stated, along with the NCAA, that campuses need to be open in some capacity to allow students to attend classes.

“I don’t believe we’re going to play football if students can’t be brought back safely to campus,” Scott said on the Dan Patrick Show.

This puts the West Coast schools and the players in a bind if the season is delayed or even canceled. One of college football’s most notorious faces is the SEC-focused Paul Finebaum – who is already not a fan of the Pac-12 or the Utes – suggested that the conference will not only fall further behind but players will leave and transfer to be able to play.

“I think it is free agency. If you are sitting down in Clemson, Alabama, Michigan, Florida, and others thinking, ‘I have a shot at picking off some of the better guys in the country,’ you are going to do it,” Finebaum said. “It is not like the Pac-12 is healthy anyways, this program is already a mess and barely shows up on the radar screen… they have only been to the College Football Playoff twice. Players exiting would be the worst possible thing.”

One thing that Finebaum is forgetting is that players can’t just up and leave and find a scholarship at their new home. There is a good chance if players can’t play where they are, they’ll try to transfer, but this doesn’t mean everyone will up and go to the best programs in the country, because as the transfer portal has taught us, there is not always room for another scholarship player, according to KSL Unrivaled.

Will There Be Room For Pac-12 Transfers?

The Pac-12 has at times been perceived as the forgotten Power 5 conference due to late kickoffs and the lack of College Football Playoff success from those who cover the SEC like Finebaum. There is plenty of talent in the league and these guys want to play and having a normal, or somewhat normal, season really determines if there will be player movement.

KSL Sports’ Scott Mitchell says Finebaum is completely wrong in not only the level of play of the Pac-12 but specifically about how players will just up and transfer from the conference to join another blue blood. There simply is not room to do that or the need.

“I don’t agree with his statement at all. Clemson, Alabama, some of these schools and Michigan don’t have to go through the transfer portal,” Mitchell said on KSL’s Unrivaled. ” They already have the players and don’t need the players. They don’t have the scholarships available for these players. What are they going to say, ‘Well, I got a three-star guy here with a scholarship, I am going to cut him for a four-star guy from USC’ it will not happen.

“Where it will actually happen is… maybe the Big 12, part of the Pac-12, or maybe it is Utah. BYU has made this part of their recruiting. BYU every year will leave out a scholarship, two, three, maybe four and see what happens with the transfer portal. Two or three guys who are legit guys at BYU changes everything.”

This is not to say that some in the Pac-12 or other states that aren’t going to play football on time will leave, but do not expect the four- or five-star players to be able to just head over to another top-10 program. There won’t be room.

KSL Sports’ Alex Kirry has his own thoughts about athletes who just really want to play but are hamstrung by being at a California school and can’t play. The bigger question could be what happens to high-end talent if the Pac-12 shuts down the season? That is an area where Finebaum could be proven accurate when it comes to players leaving.

“The question then becomes, if you are not able to play in California you are going to want to ditch your situation,” Kirry said. “I think Utah could benefit from guys [who were] two or three on their list and instead are at Cal or USC, they will go to Utah instead and go somewhere where they can just play games.

“If the Pac-12 bags the whole season as a conference and other conferences don’t, I don’t see how you wouldn’t see a massive jumping the ship of players. I look at guys who have the possibility to be a pro in a year or two and I can see them saying, ‘I am going somewhere to play somewhere immediately I don’t care if it is North Texas,'” Kirry added. “Michigan will not get a bunch of USC guys but rarely. What you will see is that guy who was an amazing defensive end at USC playing at North Texas or Louisiana Tech and that is kind of place where they might be able to land.”

There will be player movement and COVID-19 is making the timeline but the movement will not be happening until there is more clarity on what a college football season will look like. The NCAA has said that it is not going to step in and mandate a schedule so it comes down to health officials, state officials, and also conference commissioners getting a plan in place.

Once there is a plan that is when there could be player movement from any conference and it does seem West Coast schools will be the most impacted by this but there will be others. A plan may not firmly be in place until the first of July because that is the six-eight week sweet spot athletic directors and coaches are saying is needed to get ready for a season.

Tune into KSL’s Unrivaled every Monday through Friday, 7-9 p.m., or download the KSL NewsRadio app to subscribe to the podcast. 

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