We interrupt this national pity party for Florida State to announce that yet another quarterback has entered the transfer portal.

And we’re not just talking about any quarterback. He’s a former elite recruit who originally committed to one Power Five program, only to end up at another, and now has his sights set on an even better destination.

That line could describe UCLA’s Dante Moore or Washington State’s Cameron Ward. Doesn’t matter. They’re both ready to get sucked in and churned out of the magic portal.

Or how about the big arm who has passed for thousands upon thousands of yards for multiple schools already but, since the COVID year now allows guys to stay in college until they qualify for Social Security, has decided to stick around and collect yet another framed jersey to hang in his parents’ den?

Talking to you, Dillon Gabriel (Oklahoma by way of Central Florida), Tyler Shough (formerly Texas Tech and Oregon) or even Max Johnson (first LSU, then Texas A&M and now North Carolina).

Then there are the longtime starters with laurels. E.J. Warner won his conference’s rookie of the year honor in 2022 but now plans to leave Temple. Will Howard led Kansas State to the 2022 Big 12 championship and the Sugar Bowl but has entered the portal as well. And Kyle McCord announced his intention to leave weeks before his 11-1 Ohio State Buckeyes make an appearance in the Cotton Bowl.


While McCord’s decision allows Missouri alumni a moment to fool themselves into believing that he’s just ducking the Dec. 29 matchup with the Tigers — yes, sadly, this was an actual thought that crossed my mind — the truth is that McCord and every other never-settled quarterback are simply using the transfer portal for what it is: college football’s decentralized and deranged version of free agency.

The portal is what happens when the sport goes a little nuts and takes psychedelics for 29 straight days.

Sure, there are enlightened moments as newly empowered college players capitalize on their fundamental right to move just as freely as a head coach would when enticed by a new multimillion-dollar contract. But then the side effects kick in and everyone from analysts to fans and boosters starts hallucinating about who’s going where, losing any impulse control expected from a reasonable adult.

For players, the portal offers fresh opportunities and, of course, more money. It worked for last year’s Heisman Trophy winner, Caleb Williams — who headed from Oklahoma to Southern Cal — and a 2023 finalist, Michael Penix Jr. — who left Indiana for Washington.

It allows a player to follow the coach of his choice or just chase the perception of a better situation. And the free market begins even while bowl games are still being played and school is still in session — please hold the chuckles, and remember the NCAA still prefers the term “student-athletes.”

And for name, image and likeness collectives, December represents the trippiest month in college recruiting. If one big-time recruit doesn’t pan out, that’s OK. There’s always another one available for the right price in the portal.


The portal means power. And also pandemonium. It’s both liberating and in need of defined boundaries. It is the best thing to happen for college athletes and the worst development for the game, which is struggling to balance fairness with common sense.

On Monday, the only thing potent enough to distract incensed fans from bagging on the selection committee for omitting undefeated Florida State from the four-team College Football Playoff was the amount of elite quarterbacks hitting the portal. If you’ve lost count, you’re not alone. According to ESPN, nearly 1,200 players announced their intentions to transfer during the first day of the portal being open. That’s an increase of more than 400 players from a year ago.

Among the players on the move were the quarterbacks mentioned above, as well as a few eye-openers such as Duke’s Riley Leonard, who reportedly has a visit set up at Notre Dame. There’s also Grayson McCall from Coastal Carolina, who is possibly eyeing North Carolina State. And there’s transfer veteran DJ Uiagalelei, who announced his intentions last week to leave Oregon State to possibly enter the NFL draft or find his third college program in three years.

At this point, Utah’s Cam Rising either looks like the most loyal quarterback in the history of the game — he’s returning for a seventh (!) year — or a one-man transfer stimulus package. Because Rising refuses to stop playing, the dudes backing him up at Utah, Bryson Barnes and Nate Johnson, decided to hit the portal.

By the end of the official opening week of the transfer portal, there might be more quarterbacks available than starting jobs. Still, that won’t deter players from testing the market, making the rest of us pay way too much attention while pondering whether the very soul of college football is at stake.

The portal can conflict even the most ardent college football fanatic. The game is a wacky grab bag of charm — consider the passion and interest it generates just from waiting on an adolescent to place a ball cap on his head. We willingly eat up this melodrama year after year.


Yet the weirdness veers into slime territory when money controls everything in what was once passed off to the public as a pure and amateur sport. It wasn’t then, and it especially isn’t now. The portal throws the allure and the chaos together and forces us to try to reconcile it all.

But how can we find perspective and make sense of the current iteration of the transfer portal when we’re so busy tracking the comings and goings of players?

When the portal, for all the good it represents, also provides ammunition for the It Ain’t What It Used To Be crowd, that’s a problem.

The days of college athletes being pawns in a billion-dollar chess game are over, and that should be applauded. Yet it’s challenging to find the right counterpoint for those disgusted by the professionalization of the game — not when a good quarterback in the portal could cost at least $1 million, according to Nebraska coach Matt Rhule. College athletes have the right to profit off their name, image and likeness, but because the NCAA has yet to approve a mandate in which all Division I athletes are paid for their services, the current system benefits only a few.

But there has never been a better time to be a 20-something-year-old quarterback with a decent arm and at least one year of eligibility. College football can make him a millionaire.

Next year, he can do it all over again. And the year after that, too.

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