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FIU Football: Butch Davis’ Transfer Portal Philosophy

The transfer portal has presented a unique challenge for Group of Five programs.

NCAA Football: Camellia Bowl-Florida International vs Arkansas State Marvin Gentry-USA TODAY Sports

One of the most talked-about aspects of recruiting over the past several seasons has been the transfer portal.

It’s been speculated that over 3,000 players have entered their names over the past two seasons and it can be argued that Group of Five teams have been hurt the most.

Over the last month, the American Athletic Conference lost two all-conference performers in Quincy Roche and D’Eriq King, who both chose to attend the University of Miami.

Conference USA standout wide receiver Obi Obialo, who’s gone from Marshall to Oklahoma, and Rico Bussey Jr., who was projected to North Texas’ top target has entered the portal.

FIU hasn’t been spared, losing the program’s all-time leading scorer in kicker Jose Borregales and starting right tackle Devontay Taylor to Power Five programs this off-season.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 24 Western Kentucky at FIU
Devontay Taylor was an all-conference performer for FIU at right tackle.
Photo by Richard C. Lewis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Butch Davis has made his thoughts known on the transfer portal before, but spoke at length at FIU’s signing day ceremony on his philosophy going forward and what can - or can’t be done if a Power Five team shows interest in their players.

“If a kid graduates and gets his degree he has fulfilled his obligation. You would love to keep those kids and say this is where you want to be. Where they’re from and how they’re being recruited (by Power Five programs) you can’t control that. So that’s how we’ll have to look at it,” said Davis.

In the case of Borregales, the Miami native made it clear that while he looks back on his time at FIU fondly, his childhood desire to someday play for the crosstown Hurricanes was an opportunity that he couldn’t pass up.

NCAA Football: Miami at Florida International
Jose Borregales is FIU’s all-time leading scorer. He know kicks for the crosstown Miami Hurricanes.
Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

“I grew up wanting to play for them. I went to their camps, I won a couple of their (kicking) camps and then thought they were going to look at me and that never happened. I’m grateful for FIU giving me an opportunity and without them, I wouldn’t be where I’m at now,” said Borregales.

The portal has also changed the way that Davis and his staff go about recruiting. Since coming to FIU, they’ve made the decision to leave scholarships available for players who may be available after Spring.

“We have two slots available right now and we don’t anticipate using those until after April or May. My first year here we couldn’t have imagined that a guy like Pharaoh McKever (former FIU tight end) would be available,” Davis said.

Regarding players’ ability to enter the portal, FIU’s fourth-year head coach has made it known that his biggest concern is the lack of players finding new teams, in relation to the number who enter.

“I think that the transfer portal - which we have benefited from - I think it’s a bad thing for kids. There were 2,900 kids in the portal as of January 2019, but there’s only 300 scholarships available,” said Davis.

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: OCT 14 Ohio at Bowling Green
FIU’s starting quarterback over the previous two seasons was James Morgan - who came to the Panthers as grad transfer from Bowling Green.
Photo by Scott W. Grau/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

He believes that some players are being influenced by large scale success stories, but wants more recognition of the players who are without a scholarship.

“Where are the other 2,600 kids going to go - they’re seeing that Jalen Hurts went from Alabama to Oklahoma and that worked out great, but they aren’t seeing the players who end up without a scholarship - and an education,” Davis said.

According to 247 Sports, 41 players have entered the portal and withdrawn their names after the fact.

For Davis, he tries to meet with every player as they make their decision, but once they’re in the portal, the program has to treat it as if they won’t be returning.

“When they come, you ask why they’re deciding to leave. If it’s family-related - I get it. In some cases we don’t offer the graduate program that they’re looking for or they think they’re going to a better program, we say we would love for them to stay - but if that’s the choice you’ve made, it’s understood,” said Davis.

The 68-year-old Davis is a coaching veteran of 47 years and admits that his philosophy may be considered “old-school” but views football as a microcosm of life.

“In life, there’s going to be challenges, are you going to quit on your job or your marriage. You see some cases of a freshman leaving after two practices to enter the portal - in two days you know you made a mistake,” Davis said.

He also cites various examples of past players who benefited from staying with one program.

“The old days, guys like Russell Maryland (former Miami defensive tackle) who won the Outland Trophy, if the portal had been available back then they would have jumped ship because they have to play behind All-Americans. Wait your turn and work hard and the next two or three years, you’ll be the superstar,” said Davis.