The Knights fully enter NIL and Transfer Portal era
Look, I’ll be honest: It’s been a draining few days at the office. The time change means it’s getting darker earlier, each day. The weather has been cold and wet outside. The UCF Men’s Basketball team lost a heartbreaker against Ole Miss on Sunday. Things haven’t been the best. In short, I’m cranky. So, reader beware, this isn’t going to be a feel-good article from “Wild Bill.” Walk away now if you are looking to read a puff piece about the Knights, today. It’s time to take a reflective look at where we are.
It’s officially open portal season, 2023 edition, in college football. That fun time of year, where along with bowl game prep and holiday planning, coaches must navigate the maelstrom of players both entering (hopefully) and leaving their respective programs. College football has become both a game on the field AND off the field too! So far, the Knights have seen a flurry of transfers OUT of the program, with names like Drake Metcalf, Jordan McDonlad, and Corey Thornton all throwing their name into the portal hat and choosing to leave UCF. For those of you keeping track at home, this is not the best news. The portal has not been kind to UCF, thus far.
As of the time of this writing, the Knights have seen over five times as many players enter the portal looking to find a new home than have committed to Coach Malzahn and his staff. That could change in the coming weeks, so be sure to stay tuned. There are any number of reasons a player may decide to enter the portal, popular reasons being:
- Looking for more playing time/depth chart access
- Trying to move closer to home and family
- NIL opportunities
- Personal preference for student-athletes
For those UCF fans who have been following along with the transfer portal drama this month, they may be familiar with a certain Quarterback formerly from Coastal Carolina University, who was seemingly at the top of the UCF “must have” transfer board tracker, Grayson McCall. McCall has played 5 seasons for the Chanticleers and entered the portal as a graduate with one year of eligibility left. He was seen as a top-10 transfer quarterback. All reports were that Grayson was interested in and had received offers from NC State and UCF, where he took official visits last weekend. Vegas had even placed odds on where he was going to end up.
From a scheme perspective, McCall would have been a great fit for UCF and Malzahn’s offense. All indications are that UCF really (I mean REALLY) wanted to secure McCall, and he was likely their top (attainable) transfer prospect this year. UCF recruited him hard and pulled out all of the stops on his official visit last Sunday. Gus, his wife, Kristi, OC Darin Hinshaw, and even the UCF Athletic Director were all seen mingling with McCall on his official visit to Orlando. Not something that you typically see when recruiting a player. That tells you how badly UCF wanted to secure him.
As of Wednesday, McCall officially announced that he is transferring to NC State. Ladies and gentlemen, UCF did not “get our guy.”
This is where the frustration truly begins. The frustration is not directed at any one person or aspect of UCF. The frustration is that, whether we like it or not, no matter how we view ourselves in the college football landscape, or where we think we are in this hidden hierarchy of the CFP era, UCF is just not as big of a draw to others as it is to us the fans. We’re not yet the big-time program that we want to be. UCF put all of its effort into securing a player that is needed to replace our 2023 starting quarterback, and we still couldn’t make it happen. Not only that, but we lost out on said transfer to a middle-of-road ACC program in NC State. No offense to the Wolf Pack, but they aren’t a powerhouse football program. They haven’t won the ACC since 1979 and have never played in a New Years Six bowl game. When was the last time you heard of NC State making waves in college football?
UCF is supposed to be “the future of college football.” The program is part of the Power 5 (or 4, RIP Pac-12), now. The school is in the hotbed of football talent. Orlando is the city where the world vacations. Yet, when the Knights really wanted an attainable player, they chose another school. Now, we’ll never know why McCall chose to head to North Carolina over Orlando. Perhaps he wanted to be closer to his family (he’s from the Carolinas), but more likely, he was offered more NIL money than UCF could afford. That’s purely speculation on my part, for the record. I wish McCall success next year. UCF fans should not hold anything against him or any other players who choose a different program!
I think this particular transfer situation wouldn’t sting so much if many of us (myself 100% included) hadn’t believed that UCF was going to land him. That’s a rookie mistake on my part — you never get invested in anything until it happens, especially in college football! But, alas, I did and so did many others. On top of the rumors circulating around social media (again, another bad place to get reliable information from), UCF and their NIL collective were being VERY cheeky and directly indirect about our chances of securing McCall as a Knight. Late last week and into the weekend, UCF Football and the Kingdom’s official X/Twitter accounts were sending cryptic messages out that did nothing but encourage the thought that something big was coming soon.
As a fan, I find it extremely disheartening that UCF fell short when everyone seemed so confident. You can’t tell me that “good morning” wasn’t a cryptic message sent without any intention, especially when all the fans knew that UCF was in the hunt for and actively meeting with their top quarterback transfer prospect. That tweet and the others were sent with the intention of driving traffic to UCF and The Kingdom by using the McCall hype as bait. You can’t convince me otherwise.
Now, this isn’t an indictment on UCF, Gus, or Terry. They didn’t WANT to lose out on a transfer candidate. I’m sure they did all they could to get him to sign with UCF (other than taking him to a half-empty UCF basketball game where the Knights lost… Who’s genius idea was that?? We couldn’t take him to a theme park or something?). I love UCF with all of my being. I’ve been a fan since I was a student. I chose to attend UCF over that other Florida school up in Gainesville. I’m a season ticket holder. I contribute annually to the ChargeOn Fund. I’m a member of the Kingdom NIL. While I’d love to be a part of the Shareholder’s Society, I’m not yet (sorry, UCF, but I have two kids that I have to feed and put through college first). I bleed black and GOLD more than most. At the end of the day though, while we may be the FUTURE of college football, we’re simply not there yet and this portal season is more evidence of that. UCF isn’t the juggernaut that we all, so badly, want it to be. We’ve waited a long time and we’ll have to wait even longer, to get there. Knights fans, myself included, will have to come around to the idea that we’re a small fish in a big pond, and even the medium-sized fish from North Carolina who hasn’t been relevant in decades, can still sell recruits things that we cannot.
It’s a “dog (wolf?) eat university” college football world out there. UCF needs to continue to grow AND WIN in order to climb the food chain. It’s a long climb ahead.