ETSU's Tougher Transfer Portal Policy: You Go In, You're Gone

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During the 2022-23 school year, 74 East Tennessee State University athletes entered the NCAA transfer portal, and many returned, but that practice may be coming to an end.

As reported by Kingsport Times-News, athletic director Richard Sander said a new policy will make it tougher for athletes to come back.

“There are implications for every decision you make,” Sander said. “So if you make that decision, if you want to go, it’s kind of a statement, ‘I don’t want to be here.’ We only want people that want to be here. I think we are going to make sure that before they go in they understand what the reality of going into the transfer portal is.

“In the future, the basic athletic department policy is if you go in, you’re pretty much done.”

Had that policy been in place before this year, the football team would have taken quite a hit. Quarterback Tyler Riddell, wide receiver Will Huzzie and linebacker Stephen Scott.all tested the transfer waters and returned. All are among the best players in the Southern Conference at their positions, according to Joe Avento of the Times-News.

“They went into it very honestly, and they were like, ‘Coach, I’d like to go look at it. If I don’t get what I want, can I come back?’ ” coach George Quarles said. “And I said yes. Those two guys [Riddell and Huzzie] especially, they’ve done a lot for this program and been great players here. They’re great kids, too. They communicated the whole time. They did everything we asked them to do and we kept our word, too. We welcomed them back.”

Under Sander’s new policy, all three players would have been out of luck, Avento wrote.

“This is all so new to everybody, so I think we’re trying to figure out how to navigate through this,” Sander said. “But it appears to me that you risk, if you don’t have that policy in place, just becoming kind of like an open market for everybody to go in and there’s nothing to lose.”

ETSU hired Brooks Savage as men’s basketball coach in March and immediately began losing players to the portal.

“I think every situation is different, depending on where you are with your program and the landscape of your specific sport,” Savage said. “I can’t speak for any other programs or schools, but where we are in men’s basketball, we needed 100% buy in and we needed to establish the way we want do things. We want guys that want to be here. I think there’s a ton of value in that.”

The NCAA reported that 20,911 Division I athletes entered the portal in 2022, and little more than half of them landed at new schools.

Sander indicated that he's open to exceptions to his new rule.

“We know there will be special circumstances where there’s a reason,” Sander said. “But I think the general policy is, ‘If you go in, good luck and we appreciate what you did here.’ But if you didn’t want to be here, we want people who are committed, all in.”

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