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Like Many College Football Coaches, Chris Petersen Can't Talk About The Transfer Portal Without Hedging

Photo: Harry How (Getty)

It’s no secret that most college football coaches hate, or at least distrust, the transfer portal—maybe not so much the portal itself as the idea of their players getting slightly more autonomy—and media day is the perfect time to get these petty grievances out in the open so everyone can learn what assholes these guys are. Whether it’s Nick Saban hypocritically wanting limits on players that don’t exist for coaches, Dabo Swinney openly fretting that his wife would have left him if she had access to a transfer portal, or an otherwise supportive Jim Harbaugh casting doubt on some mental health-related waivers, it seems physically impossible for a college football coach to unequivocally come out and say that players should switch schools unencumbered when they want to.*

Washington Huskies head coach Chris Petersen is no exception. At today’s Pac-12 media day, Petersen was asked about the transfer portal, and his answer was less than stellar.

Here’s the first part, transcribed:

You know, I’m old school. I really am. And what I mean by that is, I just believe that there’s a lot of hard things that we need to kind of work through to get good things at the end of that process. I think the portal’s good, you know, for kids to go in there if they want to. But I think how this thing was heading where guys could just transfer and it’s starting to get to free agency, I don’t think that’s good, first and foremost, I don’t think it’s good for the kids.

I’ve just seen too many guys, including myself, have to work through hard things where you maybe you tap out, you know, where it’s just easier to say, “I’m gonna go somewhere else where I think it’s better,” and it’s usually not. And I just really believe that, and that’s just my feeling on that.

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Petersen is sitting on the same fence as many other coaches. He can’t quite come right out and say that the transfer portal is bad, because that would harm recruiting. But he’s also clearly concerned that too many college players are going to start exploiting the little leverage they have to improve their unpaid jobs.

Nobody seemed to have asked Petersen the obvious follow-up question, which would be, “Do you think Jacob Eason ‘tapped out’ when he left Georgia for Washington?” With Jake Browning graduated, Eason is the projected starting quarterback for the Huskies this season, after he transferred (pre-portal) from Georgia and sat out the 2018 season. Eason showed up at UGA as a highly touted recruit in 2016, but he suffered a knee injury in his sophomore season and lost his spot to the younger Jake Fromm, who carried the Bulldogs to the national title game. That certainly sounds like, in Petersen’s words, a “hard thing” that a guy has to “work through.”

There’s nothing wrong with Eason transferring to his home state to try and find a better situation. Under a perfect NCAA (ha), he wouldn’t have had to sacrifice a year to do it. What’s almost unbelievable is that Eason’s presence on Petersen’s team still couldn’t sway the coach to say, “Transfers are fine,” when asked about the portal. Instead, he concern-trolled that freedom of choice as a serious problem for young adults looking to play football at the school that’s best for them.

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