BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (AP) — Southeastern Conference Commissioner Greg Sankey says it's too early to tell for sure if the transfer portal is a net positive for college athletics.
He doesn't need more data to see that the NCAA is not denying as many waiver requests for athletes wanting to head to another school.
"That's a bit of an understatement there," Sankey said Monday at a regional meeting of the Associated Press Sports Editors at league headquarters. "I think that creates difficulties for everyone involved.
"There are a lot of waivers granted. I have not monitored the percentage."
It's just one part of what he calls an "ongoing dialogue" regarding transfer rules, including graduate transfers.
The NCAA recently rejected a proposal to require a graduate transfer to count against a team's scholarship total for two years in football and basketball, an attempt to slow what has amounted to the collegiate version of free agency.
The transfer portal allows athletes to put in their names as potential transfers and let other schools know they're available.
One of the most high-profile players to take advantage was former Alabama starting quarterback Jalen Hurts, who transferred to Oklahoma after graduating in December.
Hurts had lost the starting job to eventual Heisman Trophy runner-up Tua Tagovailoa and stuck it out throughout the season, unlike some players across the country. Not all reasons for entering the portal are created equal, though.
Sankey said some athletes assume they'll be granted an immediate waiver just because it happened for others.
"What I'm concerned about is that we're, like, seeking reasons," he said. "Whether there's a transfer rule or not, we all should know the same information to be able to make decisions."
Sankey said he has heard coaches wonder "Are we doing the right thing?" but indicate they will be active participants in the system. He wants to wait and see hard data on how many are graduating and remaining eligible before reaching his own conclusion.
"We assume the movement, the freedom, is healthy," Sankey said. "I think we need to track the data to see when young people move from Campus A to Campus B for whatever reason, are we assessing the right educational outcomes?"
It was among the issues Sankey addressed with the panel of editors and reporters:
— SEC basketball has made big strides in recent years, including Auburn's run to the Final Four, but it also has endured some off-the-court issues. LSU reinstated coach Will Wade on April 14, two days after he met with school and NCAA officials.
Wade had been suspended on the heels of a Yahoo report about leaked excerpts of an FBI wiretap that captured Wade speaking with a person convicted of funneling illegal payments to the families of college basketball recruits.
"I view that as a chapter in a larger story," Sankey said.
— Auburn coach Bruce Pearl has had two assistants implicated in separate bribery scandals, including Ira Bowman, who was suspended indefinitely before the postseason.
Auburn recently gave Pearl a five-year deal worth $3.8 million annually.
"We don't have widespread allegations of wrongdoing across this conference," Sankey said. "We have issues in this conference just as there are issues nationally in basketball and other sports. We will deal with those directly and expect our institutions to deal with those with integrity."
— The SEC, under former Commissioner Mike Slive, was an early advocate for playoffs in college football. Sankey doesn't think expansion of the four-team playoffs is necessary.
"I think four works," he said. "It has worked, it does work and it will continue to work."