Last season, BYU star WR Kody Epps entered his name in the transfer portal on the final day of the spring window. The news was devastating to BYU fans who viewed Epps a a potential leading target and had historically always been a huge BYU supporter.
To everyone’s surprise, just a few days later he withdrew his name from the portal and announced that he was coming back and as committed as ever. Last year, this kind of story was an anomaly that only occurred 50 times out of the 2,727 transfers (1.83%).
I have Officially withdrawn my name from the Transfer Portal. Tiger Nation let’s work.
— Israel Izzy Rhodes (@Slime2o_) January 5, 2024
We haven’t even hit the peak the players announcing their decision from the first transfer portal window, yet alone even near opening of the spring transfer portal window, but there have already been 61 players who have withdrawn their names from the portal out of 2,029. (3.01%). In all likelihood, by the time everything settles, the amount of returning players will likely be well above 100.
Why is this happening? Will this trend continue, and does it cause any issues in the locker room?
Why Would a Player Enter the Transfer Portal and Withdraw?
There are three main reasons why a player may enter the transfer portal and then decide to with withdraw their name.
A player is picked up who will help.
If there is a wide receiver who struggled to get the ball, they naturally may want to transfer. Maybe while they are still in the transfer portal, a big name quarterback is picked up by the team making the receiver want to come back and give it a second chance. I’m yet to see an example of this actually happening, but I’m sure it does.
The closest example I can think of is the Oklahoma State situation where a lot of players who many assumed would be in the portal, are returning following the announcement that Ollie Gordon III is returning next season. This could also happen with a coaching change, position coach, or a surprise player not declaring for the NFL draft.
Lack of opportunities elsewhere/broken promises.
We are being naïve if we actually believe there are not under-the-table conversations happening all year. You can see it sometimes with players announcing their availability and then signing within an hour. There is clearly tampering going on, and with that can come to false hopes or lost opportunities.
Just as an example, a quarterback may be told to come to “X” school, but then when they enter the portal, another quarterback is available and more desirable. Now that quarterback no longer has a spot at that school.
There are also the players that do the process right, look around, and realize that maybe they weren’t as desirable as they thought they either were told or believed.
Holding NIL hostage.
For some players, they want more money, and entering the transfer portal is a way to leverage a higher bid, sometimes from the prior school. This is unfortunately a part of the game that is sort of in my opinion unethical but is legal. I know for a fact of at least two players who have done this where one did actually end up getting more money and came back and another who tried this and was shown the door.
This can be a dangerous strategy, but it is happening, and if a player is valued enough, they are getting exactly what they want.
Does Players Entering and Withdrawing Cause Issues?
The short answer is yes. There is always going to be drama when a player decides to enter their name into the transfer portal and then come back. It would be like you announcing to your job that you are going to look for a new job and then a few days later you walk back in and say “Nevermind, I’m good.”
Every player is going to get a different reaction, but in almost every case it surely takes time to get the entire locker room behind him.
As this becomes more common, perhaps the drama and awkwardness of coming back will go away.