Lyons on transfers: NCAA must continue to adapt, but “I’m not sure the sky is falling yet”

Gold and Blue Nation

WVU director of athletics calls for greater education on transfer portal, graduation rates for those who change schools

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — In a new era for college athletics, student-athletes can transfer with fewer restrictions than ever before. According to WVU’s director of athletics, it may be time for the NCAA to consider some new adjustments to transfer rules. 

In an exclusive interview for a recent edition of The Bob Huggins Show, Shane Lyons told Gold and Blue Nation that the current state of transfers in the NCAA is “something that’s going to have to be continued to be looked at by the Association as a whole.” 

“I don’t think you’re going to see it go away,” Lyons said. “It’s a matter of maybe you’re looking at windows as opposed to having it so you can enter the portal at anytime.” 

The NCAA has recently altered various rules, providing athletes with more freedom and opportunity. For one, first-time transfers are immediately eligible to compete at their new schools, while amendments to amateurism rules now permit college athletes to profit off their name, image and likeness. 

Couple those noteworthy changes with a global pandemic, and Lyons says NCAA administrators have had to “adapt to change” more rapidly in the last two years “than a lot of times we’ve dealt with in a decade.” 

Numerous student-athletes at WVU have taken advantage of these recent changes. More than 30 football players have sought transfers since the beginning of 2021, and the men’s basketball team has seen at least one player enter the portal at the start of Big 12 play in each of the last two seasons. 

As it pertains to WVU — and the rest of the country — Lyons has some concerns, but isn’t panicking, about transfers. 

“I’m not sure the sky is falling yet, but there’s a lot of people that says that’s going to happen,” he said. 

Lyons admits that teams on campus have benefitted from the transfer portal. Various programs, including the football and men’s basketball teams, have bolstered their rosters with experienced incoming transfers. 

“There’s good and bad to the portal,” Lyons said. “I’m not gonna end up saying it’s all bad.” 

But his chief concerns are centered around the one-time transfer eligibility exception, which went into effect prior to the current academic year. While most transfers are motivated by a desire for more playing time, Lyons noted that some athletes who enter the portal don’t find a new landing spot.

Not only does that mean they’re not competing, but they also may not be earning a degree.  

“You have the one-time transfer, and I don’t think anybody at the time thought that was gonna be as popular with our student-athletes across all sports than it has been here in the last year,” Lyons said. “It’s something from an NCAA standpoint you continue to monitor and look at.”

Lyons added that institutions may need to change the way the educate their athletes about the risks and rewards of the transfer portal. 

“The thing that’s troubling to me as an athletic director, we’re having so many athletes that enter the portal — not only at West Virginia, but across the board — and then you look at some of the statistics, that [scholarship] athletes are entering — a lot of those, about 40 percent, we don’t have record of if they ever came back and got a scholarship,” Lyons said. “So, there’s a lot of education that’s gonna have to be done with these student-athletes about the consequences of entering and maybe not finding a spot, and then sticking around for a place.” 

In this wide-ranging interview, Lyons also discussed the resurgence of the pandemic and the COVID-19 omicron variant. When it comes to a possible reinstatement of fan safety protocols at the Coliseum, Lyons said “never say never,” but for now, masks will remain encouraged — not required — at home basketball games. 

He also discussed the legacy of men’s basketball coach Bob Huggins, who is once again on the ballot for the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame

Watch the extended interview with Lyons at the top of this page. 

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