Terry Bowden didn’t tiptoe around the controversial topic like most coaches do.
“Do I love the (transfer) portal? No, not really. It’s just a whole a bunch of more headaches,” Bowden said candidly on The Morning Drive with Aaron and Jake Thursday afternoon.
ULM’s head coach called a spade a spade on our daily sports talk show on KMLB, and quite frankly, it was refreshing to hear. The transfer portal is a double-edged sword for most, including ULM.
Sure, there are plenty of successful transfer portal stories like former Ouachita and ULM standout Josh Newton heading to TCU and becoming a First-Team All-Big 12 cornerback this season. There have also been prosperous transfer opportunities where a player like Tyrone Howell at Kansas State made his way to the Warhawks and became a star player on the perimeter for the Warhawks in 2022 with 852 receiving yards and six touchdown catches.
But for every great transfer tale like the ones above, there are several more unpleasant ones that go untold. According to the latest data on the NCAA’s transfer portal dashboard, which was created in response to a request for more transparency for college athletes pondering a move in the portal, only 49% of the student-athletes reported have enrolled at a new NCAA member school.
Why is that? Well, players that think the grass is always greener don’t always land that coveted opportunity. And when they stomp their foot and turn around to head back to their abandoned university, a lot of times their spot has already been filled. Or maybe they're welcomed back with open arms only to find a newly signed prospect next to their locker.
“If there’s a caveat to jumping in the portal, that tells me right now I’m looking for someone to replace them. I have to. You led and I’m following,” Bowden said. “I’m not disappointed in you, but I’m just taking care of our team. When a guy jumps in the portal that’s a pretty good player or starting, he’s already talking to somebody. That’s happening at every level. I promise you. But the caveat is those players have to realize now I’m going after somebody at his position, and if I offer and sign (someone new), if (the player that entered the transfer portal) gets out of the portal and comes back, now he’s got someone to compete with him.”
That was the tip of the iceberg when it came to Bowden’s conversation Thursday. Because for ULM, the transfer portal has been both a service and disservice, as previously discussed. But earlier in the week, it played the part of disservice. ULM quarterback Chandler Rogers entered the transfer portal after completing 68% of his passes and throwing for 2,403 yards and 15 touchdowns in 2022.
As you can tell from Bowden’s comments on our morning show, this didn’t come as a complete shock. Because of the nature of the transfer portal and college football, moves like these have become the new norm. But Bowden didn’t tear down Rogers or the system in this instance. He instead propped up the Warhawks backup quarterback Jiya Wright and gave examples of similar scenarios working out this season in the Sun Belt Conference.
“You have to remember, up until the week of the first game with Jiya Wright, it was 1A and 1B,” Bowden said. “Jiya is probably faster and has a stronger arm (than Rogers). It was 1A and 1B. We made Chandler the starting quarterback because I thought he was a little more ready. Jiya bruised his ribs against Texas and didn’t play the next five weeks. Now we didn’t report that, but he probably would have played a lot more. As we got more into the season, Chandler was having a good year.
“All this does is make Jiya Wright excited because now you’ve got the guy that was 1A and 1B, and now it goes to him. If you look at South Alabama and Troy, Troy went back to the quarterback that they played somebody over him the year before. And they won almost every game. And South Alabama went to a new guy after the portal.”
With that quote right there, Bowden immediately turned a negative into a positive. If that doesn’t light a fire under Wright, I’m not sure what would. There’s a good chance Wright hit the gym shortly after those comments, though.
As for ULM and it’s future, look, this is something Bowden and other G5 coaches will have to deal with as long as the transfer portal operates like it currently does. The transfer portal helped teams like USC and LSU go from hiring a new coach and entering the season with a rebuild mentality to battling for a college football playoff spot in Week 12.
And it’s not always a bad tool for G5 schools that are fortunate to snatch a talented P5 player looking to become a bigger fish. Heck, I mentioned Howell earlier, and the Warhawks received great news from ULM’s star receiver on Twitter after Rogers entered the portal. Howell announced he was returning to the team for unfinished business, and that he would lead on and off the field. He’s already done both if you ask me.
“He’s probably the most talented guy on the field, most games we played on either team,” Bowden said. “And we feature him. I think he’s happy here, and he knows how much he means to us. I saw his tweet. He did that, to me, to send a message to his teammates. That goes a long way when the best player on your team makes a statement and says, 'I’m here to help us go where we want to go.'”
You can’t have thin skin in this game. You wish everybody loved your school as much as you do, but it doesn't always work like that. A lot of players will leave for a better experience when given the chance.
The data is clear, though. You’ve got a 50-50 shot at making that happen. If you take the shot, you better not miss.