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Column: Why do so many UNC athletes join the transfer portal?

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UNC junior guard Caleb Love (2) looks to pass during the men’s basketball game against UVA in the Dean E. Smith Center on Saturday, Feb. 25, 2023.

March 27, the day Caleb Love announced he was entering the transfer portal, will go down UNC history. But why did Love — and every other athlete — enter the portal?

Within collegiate athletics, the transfer portal is a fairly new addition – beginning in only 2018. Prior to the portal’s creation, athletes could still transfer to other schools, but it was a lengthy process. They would need their coach’s permission to contact other schools, provide information to an administrator and fill out forms for each school they had any interest in.

Now, it’s easier than ever for college athletes to transfer to different schools by simply entering the portal, which many athletes take full advantage of. 

UNC is no exception.

UNC has (unfortunately) had six men’s basketball players enter the portal this year, including star player Caleb Love. Also this year, the women’s basketball team had two players enter the portal and the UNC football team had 14 players enter.

So, what are the possible reasons — besides it being relatively easy — why athletes might enter the portal?

Playing time

Most people know the main point of being a college athlete is to, well, play. Often, some players don’t get the amount of playing time they want or feel they deserve.

On the UNC football team, Drake Maye is the guy. He’s the starting quarterback and he’s likely going to be in that position for the majority of his time at UNC, meaning other QBs on the roster won’t have much opportunity to play.

Quarterback Jacolby Criswell entered the portal after the 2022 season and this is likely his reasoning. During Criswell's time at UNC, he only had one start, which came about because of an injury faced by former quarterback Sam Howell. While backing up the ACC Player of the Year, playing time at UNC was not guaranteed for Criswell.

Coaching

If not the players, a coach is one of the most important parts of an athletic team. They design the plays, make the lineup and essentially decide the fate of their players. Poor coaching, the introduction of a new coach or the quality of a coach at a different school compared to your own could all be catalysts for a player’s decision to enter the transfer portal.

Miami men’s basketball transfer Nijel Pack, Iowa State men’s basketball transfer Osun Osunniyi and , Gonzaga men’s basketball transfer Malachi Smith all told ESPN that the coaching staff at their prospective schools was a driving force behind their decision to transfer.

Relationships

Team bonding and friendships are a huge aspect of a player’s experience on a team, and any rocky relationships with fellow teammates or a player’s closest friends leaving could prompt one to look for other places to play. 

Fans

One of the driving forces behind an athletic team is the fans. Their presence at games and their support on and off the court can motivate players to be loyal to a certain team.

However, negativity from fans could also cause players to be disloyal to a certain team.

With the rising presence of social media, it’s easier than ever for individuals to post negative comments about players on their school’s sports teams. An overwhelming amount of negativity could even be enough to push an athlete to transfer.

Players like Love and UNC football player Cam’ron Kelly often received lots of playing time and were considered star athletes on their respective teams by many. However, both players also received a lot of hate from UNC “fans.” Both players entered the transfer portal after their most recent seasons.

Their entrance into the transfer portal caused fans to speculate why they would leave some of the best programs in the country despite playing consistently. Part of this reason could be because of an overwhelming amount of negativity from those who are meant to support them.

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There's nothing fans can do about playing time, coaching or relationships between players. However, they can influence an athlete's experience in their own way.

Fans of college sports teams have a significant impact on the players and the games in general. It’s important to remember that every athlete is still a person and that words affect them.

UNC fans using less negative language and showing more appreciation for star athletes is important to show them that we care. Enough support might even be enough to encourage someone to stay in Chapel Hill.

All of these reasons listed are only possibilities, and there are also a multitude of other reasons why athletes enter the transfer portal. 

No matter the reason, UNC fans should continue to support their players in their career decisions.

@dthopinion

opinion@dailytarheel.com