What’s Wrong with ETSU’s Transfer Portal Policy

Marky Billson
7 min readAug 29, 2023

Athletic Director Richard Sander says future Buccaneers who enter the portal can’t return.

Marky Billson

With a football season nobody is all that excited about ready to start, East Tennessee State athletic director Richard Sander announced a “Be Great” initiative to set the course for Buccaneers athletics.

“Great” is an anacronym for “Grateful, Resilient, Excited, All-In, and Together.” While the final two might seem repetitive, it’s ultimately an effort to increase giving to the athletic department while speaking of improving the lot of the ETSU athlete mentally, physically, and emotionally.

But the word to focus in on here is grateful, thus meaning “grateful to be here.”

For within that definition is a new ETSU policy that once an athlete enters in to the transfer portal, he or she is to be banished from Johnson City forever.

Some might consider that a good thing, but the hope is by not allowing those who enter the transfer portal to return to ETSU it will prevent situations such as the last school year, where 74 Buccaneers entered the portal.

The problem is today’s college athlete has more freedom than ever and doesn’t want to be suppressed.

How will today’s athlete respond to essentially not being able to place themselves on waivers to gauge their stock?

And how will this affect ETSU athletics?

If Buccaneers began this policy earlier this year, talking about a winless 2023 football season would not be out of the question. Arguably their two best returning players, quarterback Tyler Riddell and his leading receiver, wide receiver Will Huzzie, entered the transfer portal before being welcomed back.

At 5–11 Riddell likely found he was too short to be in demand, but he’s still be a reliable performer for the Bucs.

Three leading defensive players, linebackers Stephen Scott, Di’Andre Davis and defensive lineman Deven Brantley, also returned to ETSU after entering the portal.

It’s hard to blame Riddell for entering the portal. After leading ETSU to a school-record 11 victories while establishing himself as the most accurate passer in school history, he…