Hoppy Kercheval, Opinion

Mesidor transfer prompts questions about portal

WVU head football coach Neal Brown looked tired. It was noon last Thursday and he admitted he had not slept much since Tuesday because of the news he was delivering to the press.

“Late Tuesday, end of the day, I learned that Akheem Mesidor was going to enter the transfer portal,” a glum Brown said. “Candidly, (I) was surprised, and I would even say very surprised.”

So was Mountaineer Nation.

Mesidor was a stalwart on the defensive line. He and returning starter Dante Stills were going to anchor a fearsome defensive front. Mesidor and that unit were among the least of Brown’s concerns heading into the most challenging season of his four-year tenure.

But just that quick, Mesidor was gone.

“Most of the time you really sense them (portal transfers) coming — there’s a change in behavior — but not this one,” Brown said.

Mesidor later released a statement where he attempted to provide an explanation.

“Despite the recent media conference and public speculation, I have decided to transfer from (sic) my overall well-being and in pursuit of a better environment for my development on and off the field,” he said.

The greatly liberalized transfer rules allow Mesidor — and every other college athlete — to make that choice during their college tenure without penalty. The transfer portal is the great equalizer for players who used to be penalized while coaches and staff could move freely from one job to another.

But the Mesidor move is still a head scratcher.

According to the NCAA Eligibility Center, “Existing recruiting rules prohibit communication and contact with a student-athlete enrolled at another NCAA school prior to the student-athlete appearing in the NCAA Transfer Portal.”

Full disclosure — there is no evidence of that, and it has not been alleged. However, the transfer portal, combined with name, image and likeness opportunities, has created a “wild West” atmosphere in recruiting.

If Akheem Mesidor had been unhappy enough at WVU to consider “pursuing a better environment,” it seems likely Neal Brown would’ve noticed. Because the coaching staff was caught completely off-guard, you can’t help but wonder where the grain of that idea came from.

Abiding by whatever limited authority the NCAA has left to govern college recruiting may be a fool’s errand these days, since it appears player poaching has become part of the game.

Winners get players wherever and however they can; apparently, rules are for chumps.

Hoppy Kercheval is a MetroNews anchor and the longtime host of “Talkline.” Contact him at hoppy.kercheval@wvradio.com.