Monday, May 20, 2024

Few: Transfer portal creating chaos in college hoops

by STEVE CAMERON / Zags Tracker
| May 25, 2021 1:00 AM

Mark Few thinks the transfer portal is a crock of -.

OK, since this is a family newspaper, let’s say the Gonzaga coach believes the portal is just plain absurd.

Few feels that the current system has created chaos, that it’s bad for the game, and in many cases that it does a disservice to the players who make use of it.

“There's an incredible amount of disinformation out there. There's a horrible disconnect,” Few said.

“The NCAA has just done a really poor job of getting information out.

“Are you going to be eligible, or are you not going to be eligible?”

Few’s blast at the NCAA comes despite his presence on several committees which aim to help ease the confusion, but he’s made it plain he doesn’t think he has to “toe the line” on behalf of the organization.

For the record, the Zags will have just two transfers on the roster this fall…

Senior Andrew Nembhard (who actually could have two years of eligibility remaining under the Covid-19 ruling), and Rasir Bolton, a junior guard who transferred to Gonzaga from Iowa State.

The remainder of the roster – a group already ranked near the top of the college hoops heap – consists of high school recruits.

IT ALSO needs to be pointed out that Nembhard, who came from Florida and became a starter on last year’s Final Four team, arrived in the belief that he would have to sit out a season before becoming eligible.

Nembhard and Few both were fine with that.

A last-minute decision made Nembhard eligible, and he stepped into a key role as the Zags went 31-1 – losing only to Baylor in the national championship game.

Bolton is the only player currently enrolled who has transferred with the intention (and the basic certainty) of playing immediately.

For some time, Few kept mostly quiet about the transfer portal, and how it’s being used.

Just this year, however, he’s watched approximately 1,500 players submit their names for possible transfer and immediate eligibility -- and apparently Few decided the silliness of it all required him to speak up.

Few chose an interesting platform to tee up the NCAA for allowing what he considers nonsense to take over football and men’s basketball, the two revenue sports that act as drivers for college athletic department revenue.

The coach sounded off on a podcast hosted by former Gonzaga star Adam Morrison.


About the portal?

“(The NCAA) opened it up under the guise of 'all the other sports can do that,' Few said, “but you know and I know that the other sports are not like men's college basketball and football.

“There's a roster-building aspect to this, with highly, highly competitive recruiting going on that are vastly different than the other sports.”

His point is pretty obvious.

Coaches and boosters around the country, who are already going full-tilt while hunting high school and junior college talent, now can fill up rosters by convincing kids to switch schools.

Few insists that the NCAA should have seen this move toward some kind of free agency coming.

“This portal, we've been moving along on this continuum for a time,” Few said, “but if you're asking me where this rule currently stands with all this disinformation and disconnection of facts...

“It’s a disaster right now.

“I’m all for players having opportunities. I think if the NCAA would have been more astute, and more timely on seeing this coming down the pike, just like with NIL (name, image and likeness rights), we could have avoided all of this.”

DON’T GET the notion that Few would advocate for this level of agency in transfers, however.

Not likely.

When he speaks about a reasonable switch of schools, Few is referring to someone like Nigel Williams-Goss, who came to Gonzaga from Washington – but under the rules at that time, Williams-Goss had to sit out a year.

Same with Brandon Clarke, when he came from San Jose State.

When Few refers to the NCAA not understanding the direction things were headed, he first brings up waivers.

“What happened is that they started allowing waivers and you could just get a waiver for anything,” he said.

With just a touch of sarcasm, Few mentioned waiver petitions that involved sick relatives as a reason for a player to move near home.

“If you want to do that, then just go home and don’t play a year of college basketball,” he said.

So, what if the NCAA had gained a little foresight, and asked Few to come up with a method of handling a portal that worked?

IT’S CLEAR that Few would have devised some sort of plan that didn’t involve wholesale transfers and immediate eligibility.

He said he’d be fine with next-season eligibility if a coach left or was fired, but in general…

Sit out a year.

“There’s a generational aspect to this, where you hit the slightest bit of adversity and you're out of there,” Few said.

“I personally don't think that's a healthy way to mature, and there are some things you've got to learn...

“Life lessons.”

What you’re hearing, given Few’s thoughts on the craziness of the transfer portal, offers a pretty good look into the Gonzaga way of dealing with its athletes.

It also helps explain why so many Zags – stars and otherwise – have so much success after leaving the university.

But then, Few would tell you…

That’s the point.


Steve Cameron’s “Cheap Seats” columns appear in The Press on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays. “Moments, Memories and Madness,” his reminiscences from several decades as a sports journalist, runs each Sunday.

Steve also writes Zags Tracker, a commentary on Gonzaga basketball which is published monthly during the off season.