As Transfer Portal becomes more popular with players across the country, SIU Football welcomes new student-athletes


Seth Martin | @seth.mart

As Transfer Portal becomes more popular with players across the country, SIU Football welcomes new student-athletes

By Cole Daily, Staff Reporter

The SIU football program is benefiting from two significant rule changes by the NCAA.

In the fall of 2018, the NCAA revised its rules regarding athletes transferring to new schools. Instead of sitting out a year, players were now rewarded instant eligibility.

The “transfer portal” was born.


With another revision from the NCAA that now allows for players to make money through NIL (Name, Image, and Likeness) deals, this “transfer portal” is becoming more and more like a free agency period, like you would see in professional sports. The players essentially get to pick and choose where they would like to move with no real consequence.

Western Carolina transfer (transferred last off-season), senior running back Donnavan Spencer said that NIL deals can draw players to certain schools, including SIU. Southern Illinois understands any additional money a certain athlete can make will impact their decision.

“It’s great that SIU is a well-known program so that you get those opportunities. I wouldn’t say it was the reason I came to SIU, but it certainly something I considered when making my decision,” Spencer said.

Recruiting coordinator Nate Griffin said SIU is in a great location for players to land opportunities inside and outside of football.

“We’re close to a lot of things. You’re close to St. Louis, Nashville, Atlanta isn’t too far, Indianapolis, and Chicago. You’re the epicenter to a lot of places, ” Griffin said.

Certain coaches, recruiters and media members worry that, with the expansion of the transfer portal and NIL deals, young, impressionable athletes across the country could be taken advantage of.

Griffin said he understands the struggle these players must have at balancing the tightrope in terms of making the right decision.


“A lot of people get involved now. You don’t really know who is in the kids’ heads in terms of whether that be family, trainers, people who want them to leave the program,” Griffin said, “That’s really where the portal could have a negative impact.”

Junior defensive back La’Andre Thomas transferred from the University of Memphis to Southern Illinois this off-season after his season with the Tigers ended. Thomas said it was hard to navigate which schools genuinely wanted what was best for his career.

Thomas said the fact that one of his former teammates and friend, junior tight end Tyce Daniel, transferred here made his decision a lot easier. Daniel was in his ear telling him about the experience of being in Carbondale.

“It was nice to have Tyce on the inside. The coaches can tell you one thing, but when you have players talking to you and being real with you, that means a lot,” Thomas said.

Thomas said he feels confident in his decision to join the Salukis and their staff under head coach Nick Hill.

“I really like what he [Hill] and [defensive coordinator Jason] Petrino are doing right now. I think I’ll be able to fit in perfect to the defensive scheme we have right now,” Thomas said.

Spencer said he left Western Carolina and chose SIU because of his respect and admiration for Hill and the culture the coach has established in the program.

“They are a very family-orientated group and I learned that very quickly. That’s what, in the end, made me choose SIU,” Spencer said.

He and Thomas said the time had come at their previous schools. Too many changes to the program had left both players searching for a new place to call home.

Now that they are older and more experienced, they believed it was easier to navigate being recruited and had a sense they could control their own destiny.

“Usually when you’re a freshman, they tell you that you are going to have to wait a couple years,” Spencer said, “But in the case of the older guys like me, you mean more to the recruiters because they know what they’re getting and you can play right away,”

Griffin said the recruitment of transfers is a bit different than with high school athletes.

“With the freshman kids, this is their first shot in college. With transfer guys, they know what it’s all about. For them, it’s just a matter of what they’re looking for,” Griffin said.

Griffin said the SIU recruitment staff looks for players who would make a great fit for the team, then look to see if they have the talent and leadership attributes that would make them a positive in the program.

“It’s more about the fit than anything. Any kid we recruit either in the portal or in high school is going to be talented, and then, from there, it’s about their attitude and mindset,” Griffin said.

Thomas has joined the Salukis’ program for the Spring 2022 semester. The spring season is important to build relationships with the new players and establish development throughout the team.

“Knowing all of the small details before heading into the season is going to make a big difference,” Thomas said, “Just being around the players and getting to know them is really going to help us build a stronger bond so we can play better together,”

Griffin said he is excited to welcome all the new transfers into the program.

“We’re excited about everybody we’ve got so far. We always invest so much time into recruiting and building relationships so it feels great when it pays off,” Griffin said.

In the world of the transfer portal, many fans judge players who leave the program.

“You’re too soft”, “Why couldn’t you just stick it out?” and “You’re a traitor” are all phrases college transfers hear more and more as the portal becomes increasingly popular. Both fans and the national media tend to judge players who “quit” on their programs.

“At the end of the day the players have to make the decision that is best for themselves and their family,” Thomas said, “A lot of players in the past couldn’t get out of a bad situation they had been placed in, so we have to be thankful.”

Spencer agreed with Thomas’ sentiment.

“They (SIU) gave me the opportunity to compete in a great conference, with great competition, and they gave me another family,” Spencer said, “It was one of the best decisions I ever made.”

Sports Reporter Cole Daily can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter at cdaily_de

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