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The impact of the NIL and the transfer portal on WVU athletics

Could it be that we’ve all been wrong about Name, Image and Likeness payments and the transfer portal and its effect on college football?

Could it be that rather than being the beginning of the end of college sports as we have come to know them, where rather than making the rich only richer and creating a huge talent gap between the traditional powers and the rest of us all?

Could be.

The early returns seem to indicate that just the opposite is happening. If anything, it seems to be a quick fix for the needy and creating a situation where competition is being leveled off rather than becoming more unbalanced than it previously was.

And, most importantly in this space, is this not a signal that, if handled correctly, West Virginia can benefit from the changes rather than seeing its place among the college elite slip away.

What am I talking about?

OK, raise your hand if you picked TCU to be in the College Football Playoffs championship game before the season.

I’m waiting. Don’t see any hands up.

They won four games last season. They got rid of their coach. And here they are.

Alabama, Oklahoma, Ohio State, Michigan, Clemson, USC will all be home watching them play Georgia on Monday for the championship.

If TCU can do it, a team that came into the Big 12 with West Virginia, cannot the Mountaineers, too?

Go back again to the start of last season. The top three teams in the Big 12’s preseason poll were Baylor, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State.

West Virginia beat all three of them.

How about basketball, you say, having watched WVU implode in its first two Big 12 games, losing at Kansas State and Oklahoma State.

Here is how they picked the conference finish in the preseason poll in mid-October:

1. Baylor – 77 points (5 first-place votes)

2. Kansas – 73 (4)

3. Texas – 64 (1)

4. TCU – 58

T5. Oklahoma State – 42

T5. Texas Tech – 42

7. Oklahoma – 32

8. Iowa State – 30

9. West Virginia – 20

10. Kansas State – 12

So, let’s see what’s going on. Here are some recent scores:

No. 8 Iowa State beat No. 1 Baylor, 77-62; No. 2 Kansas, at home, beat No. 5 Oklahoma State (which beat WVU) by a scant two points; Texas, which was then ranked No. 6 in the nation as well as No. 3 in the preseason Big 12 poll, beat Oklahoma by a point; then Kansas again was all out to survive at Texas Tech, 75-72.

As all this fits in with WVU’s problems and seems to indicate they are teetering on the edge of a really good season. They played Purdue to the wire, the Boilermakers reaching No. 1 in the nation before being stunned by Rutgers, another of those rich-ain’t-always-getting-richer games.

They lost to Xavier, which is not a bad loss considering the Musketeers are ranked No. 18 in the AP poll and just upset a previously unbeaten ranked No. 2 UConn team.

The other two losses, as mentioned, were to Oklahoma State and Kansas State. All Kansas State did as an encore after beating WVU was lay 116 points on Texas in a 116-103 upset.

It is looking as though the changes in the structure of college athletics, rather tearing the games apart, is creating more competitiveness. We forget, that there always were haves and have nots. You know who they were. We’ve seen our dynasties, be it UCLA or Kentucky, North Carolina or Duke in basketball, Notre Dame or Alabama or Oklahoma in football.

The NIL and transfer portal seems to be working as a way to keep those powerful universities from grabbing onto and, more importantly, holding onto the top players. Players can move on to get playing opportunities, allowing the wealth to be spread.

The transfer portals, back by NIL money, create opportunity for players not just opportunity for the Oklahomas or Kentuckys or Ohio States or Michigans of the world to corner the talent market, but for schools like TCU or Purdue or Houston or yes, West Virginia to make rapid advancements up the rankings and standings with wise use of its assets.

It could be that should the NCAA — or whatever body might rise up and replace it to run college athletics — put intelligent guidelines and restrictions on both NIL and the transfer portal that add stability to the equation it might work out well for everyone.

That way there might not even be a need to expand the NCAA Basketball Championships to 90 teams as some are pushing for now.

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