Iowa Football

Iowa rings in the age of the NCAA transfer portal

No, Kirk Ferentz doesn't want to buy an orange tuxedo online, but a defensive tackle and punter would be nice

Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz gets a Gatorade bath by linebacker Amani Jones after defeating Mississippi State in the 2019 Outback Bowl at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla. (Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports)
Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz gets a Gatorade bath by linebacker Amani Jones after defeating Mississippi State in the 2019 Outback Bowl at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Fla. (Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports)

By now you’ve heard about the NCAA transfer portal. It’s not quite free agency, but it’s close enough to make some coaches worry.

“We’ve got guys on transfer portals, which to me looks like a waiver wire,” Iowa offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz said during Outback Bowl week. “You get immediate eligibility for no good reason. We’re really going to a bad place, in my opinion.

“Those are the things that I think we need to worry about. We’re worrying about a bunch of things that don’t matter. Meanwhile we’ve got guys just coming and going as they please.”

That is the crux of the NCAA’s “notification-of-transfer” model. It’s the student-athlete’s first step toward changing teams. The NCAA’s official rule change regarding the transfer portal was announced in July, and it launched on October 15.

Before the NCAA implemented this transfer method, players needed to get permission to contact other programs if they wanted to transfer. Their home school could then dictate which schools the transfer prospect could contact or receive communication from.

Now, the transfer prospect tells the school he/she wants out. The school has two business days to enter the prospect’s name in the NCAA transfer portal.

Entering the portal allows other coaches to contact student-athletes, but it isn’t a binding agreement forcing players to transfer.

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Graduate transfers remain free to pick whatever school they want. Underclassmen still might have to sit out for a year. On this topic last March, Iowa athletics director Gary Barta, a member of the NCAA transfer working group, said 60 percent of underclassmen found exemptions that helped them immediately become eligible.

In the future, players might have immediate eligibility if they’re on track to graduate and the transfer won’t interrupt that course to a great degree, Barta said.

It’s probably good to let coaches know you’re putting your name into the transfer portal. If you’re still in the portal by the end of the spring semester, your home school isn’t obligated to allow you back in the program and your scholarship opens up.

These types of transfers were less public before the portal. All of the sudden, after some ham-handed recruiting that wasn’t supposed to happen, transfers were announced. When an athlete enters the portal, any school can recruit and eventually sign him.

The transfer portal isn’t public. From varying reports across the internet, as you can imagine, it is a bit of a quarterback buffet, with as many as a dozen QBs in the portal.

Ohio State is getting QB Justin Fields from Georgia. Ohio State QB Tate Martell is in the portal. Notre Dame’s Brandon Wimbush will be a graduate transfer in the portal.

Where does Iowa fit in this?

In the last two summers, the Hawkeyes have done some off-schedule shopping. In the summer of 2017, Iowa found running back James Butler, a graduate transfer from Nevada. An elbow injury bit into Butler’s season at Iowa, but he signed with the Raiders last summer.

Also in 2017, wide receiver Matt Quarells graduated from New Mexico and signed with the Hawkeyes. He transferred to Southern Illinois after seeing little time at Iowa and caught one pass last season.

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Last summer, Iowa recruited and signed running back Mekhi Sargent in June after an All-American season at Iowa Western Community College. It wasn’t a graduate transfer, it was more going off schedule and signing a juco before his sophomore year.

Iowa isn’t in the market for a QB. It now has four on scholarship with Alex Padilla enrolling and beginning practice this semester.

According to HawkeyeReport.com, Iowa has contacted graduate transfers Rice defensive tackle Zach Abercrumbia and Arizona State punter Michael Sleep-Dalton. An Australian native, Sleep-Dalton averaged 43.8 yards per punt for the Sun Devils last season.

With tight ends Noah Fant and T.J. Hockenson declaring for the NFL draft, don’t be surprised if Iowa doesn’t have an eye on available tight ends.

Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz isn’t afraid to go the non-traditional route, especially now that the non-traditional route has a map and is just a click away on the portal.

“I think it would be foolish not to consider everything,” Kirk Ferentz said during Outback week. “If it gives you a chance to help your football team, you have to consider that.”

Of course, it’s still Ferentz and Iowa. He doesn’t want to buy a tuxedo online and have it arrive in orange or light blue.

“It’s a little like online shopping,” Ferentz said. “I can pick stuff out online, but my daughter or someone has to punch all the stuff in and then it comes in the box and it’s not quite what you thought it was.

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“We’ve all experienced that. You don’t want to be just doing that. But we had researched Mekhi pretty well. You don’t just want to take someone off the internet, I guess that’s probably also true with dating, right? I’ve never tried it.”

l Comments: (319) 398-8256; marc.morehouse@thegazette.com

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