A Hard Truth Wallops Hog Fans: The Transfer Portal Giveth, and Taketh Away

Razorback fans

There cannot be a ruling class without a proletariat.

Nor can the economy grow without some degree of unemployment, inflation or taxation.

And Arkansas can’t be a destination for everyone. The current culture surrounding the transfer portal in NCAA athletics is such that no program is immune from departures.

Mike Woods’ seemingly abrupt departure, within hours after he had snagged a long touchdown pass from K.J. Jefferson in the Red-White Game on Saturday, begs to be viewed through that prism. A couple of recent basketball defections demand the same discretion.

If the pro sports world can respect the concept of free agency, we college fans have no reason to see amateurs restricted.

Mike Woods’ Choice

Mike Woods closed the book on his Fayetteville career politely, thankfully, while Desi Sills’ more truculent attitude indisputably showed itself.

Woods went so far as to dispel rumors of dissent with new position coach Kenny Guiton. He heaped praise upon the program and personnel. Curiously, Woods didn’t announce an immediate landing spot, but again, that’s his prerogative.

The transfer portal’s seeming fickleness makes for incredible, potentially damaging drama. Our message-board mentality as fans being what it is, we long for explanations, right?

And most of the time, we get them, maybe undeservingly.

Take the Mitch Mustain example from early 2007 — an 18-year-old young man’s life was under such a searing microscope that he sought refuge hundreds of miles westward. The fact this developed into the roots of a documentary is sadly telling.

No one questioned Mustain’s desire to get away from the embarrassingly toxic scenario that emerged then. Just because the football program looks shinier and happier than ever, though, doesn’t mean it suits Mike Woods.

The tea-leaves reading we naturally do as fans takes over. If a receiver with designs on a big close to his career bolts, is it an indictment on the quarterback(s)? The coordinator?

In Woods’ case, it outwardly appears to be based on nothing more than a desire to ply his trade elsewhere. (He went out of his way to refute rumors that new wide receivers coach Kenny Guiton caused the rift.)

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Last year, he was blossoming alongside Treylon Burks, averaging an eye-popping 19 yards per reception on the season and 80 receiving yards per game over the Hogs’ final five contests.

The smoke hadn’t even cleared from Woods’ exit when, on Thursday, another Razorback football player announced his departure

This time around it was redshirt sophomore Enoch Jackson. The defensive lineman simply posted a video of himself playing to put his wares on the market:

Not a lot of pretense there, folks.  No fancy words, no #WPS4L’s. 

Welcome to the new world of the transfer portal. 

Desi Sills, Ethan Henderson staying in SEC

An entirely unofficial poll of fellow Hog zealots in my inner circle led me to conclude that Ethan Henderson’s transfer to Texas A&M represented the first time since the 1980s that a Hog basketballer left for another conference school. Someone is free to research and document this further.

Desi Sills then announced on Tuesday that he was Auburn-bound, so Arkansas fans will see a lot these familiar faces. I hope they’ll behave when that time comes, too.

Like Woods, Sills and Henderson made terrific, meaningful contributions here. Is it naturally disappointing to see them find footing in the same league? Undoubtedly.

There’s a sense of abandonment when a Razorback isn’t fulfilled by the experience enough to stick with it through the end. The NCAA, however, didn’t think it was entirely fair to keep young men and women tethered to a school.

And that’s good. Don’t forget what we’ve seen in the Ozarks recently.

Sam Pittman’s first team was captained by a quarterback from Florida (Feleipe Franks), and led in rushing by expats from Arizona State (Trelon Smith) and Texas A&M (Rakeem Boyd). In women’s basketball, recent WNBA top five pick Chelsea Dungee joined Mike Neighbors’ rebuild after a season at Oklahoma.

Although Dungee and Destiny Slocum (another great transfer) are gone, Neighbors will reload with talented newcomers that include Fayetteville native Sasha Goforth, a former 5-star who is transferring back home after a year at Oregon State. 

We needn’t run through the list of players Eric Musselman employed and empowered to great success his first two seasons. He, as well as anyone, knows that attrition is inherent in the game today.

Changed times, changed results

Arkansas fans know the value of recruiting. This is a small state, and by extension, its number of native athletic prodigies will be small, too.

For decades, we’ve all freely and openly recognized this. We will not see success in Hog athletics unless its coaches get commitments abroad.

Arkansas basketball’s recent, welcome, and wonderful progress in this area came on the strength of that diverse approach. You can go into South Dakota (Stanley Umude) and Pittsburgh (Au’diese Toney) and Northern Kentucky (Jalen Tate) to find players to fit.

But when others no longer see Fayetteville as the right fit, that’s okay, too.

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Mason Jones Gets Blasted After Congratulating Mike Woods on “Smart Move” to Oklahoma

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Also, see: “Mike Woods and Texas Longhorns: “Arkansas Fans, Y’all Gonna Hate Me For This…”

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