South Carolina football survived April and the transfer portal

Scott Davis has followed South Carolina athletics for over 40 years and provides commentary from the fans' perspective. He writes a weekly newsletter year-round and a column during football season published every Monday on

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I'll let you in on a little secret: I've always enjoyed the Gamecock Club's annual spring meeting circuit.

When you love college football, your calendar turns into a series of milestones. The first few months of winter — just after the season ends — are reserved for reading, pondering and obsessing about recruiting. Then it's straight into spring training (which gives you a great opportunity to read about, read about and think about new recruits, position battles, plans and additions to the coaching staff).

For decades, the Gamecock Club speaking tour, which spanned the late spring and early summer weeks, was our last stop before a long dry spell in the dog days leading up to training in August. So we did our superfan duties and read, fretted, and obsessed over what the head football coach said during his annual visits to meetings in remote parts of the Palmetto State.

It was the only thing that could bridge the gap until autumn, the final leg of the journey.

And you had to pay attention to the stories that emerged from each meeting, because you never knew which ones would be worth paying full attention to. Maybe the Greenville meet didn't bring electrifying news, but the Myrtle Beach meet would excite you enough to consider purchasing an additional set of season tickets. So you've read everything.

Yes, it was a simpler time.

Now, of course, these old-fashioned milestones seem like remnants of a prehistoric era. Now it's football season never actually ends. We'll move from the Gamecock Club meetings to the SEC meetings, then we'll talk about future dates for a few weeks, then there'll probably be a week where everyone speculates about more conference expansion stories, then there'll be SEC media days be there, And then before you know it, it's August and we're practicing.

It used to be that you could count on the coach – whether his name was Brad Scott or Lou Holtz or Steve Spurrier or even Will Muschamp – to chat about the starting lineup or the difficult schedule during the club speaker tour, and nothing particularly mundane. “Harrowing” you would say, but most of us would still find ways to be happy about it.

Current head coach Shane Beamer also talks about these things. But he's also talking about something else, something he needs to talk about, something every coach at every college in America needs to talk about right now.

He talks about the transfer portal.

Escape from April

Until about 2022, college football fans only felt fear during the season itself and again on National Signing Day. Would this powerhouse South Carolina-leaning recruit keep his commitment or pull off a last-minute surprise and head to Georgia?

That being said, you could cruise through the rest of the year without too much worry other than hoping everyone on the roster stays healthy.

No longer.

Now you have to endure a series of transfer portal “windows” that give players the opportunity to pack their bags and move elsewhere, including to one of the schools you might face on the field in a few months.

The spring transfer window closed on May 1, and South Carolina coaches and fans collectively breathed a sigh of relief as the final second expired on April 30. The Gamecocks held on to every expected starter and key contributor and were expected to start the season with a full complement of players.

Nowadays it is no longer a given that we can survive the spring with an intact starting eleven.

As he makes his way through Gamecock Club meetings across the state, Beamer admitted how confusing the new lineup can be for coaches like him. We're in an undiscovered land, and no one knows that better than college football coaches.

At the Charleston Gamecock Club meeting this week, Beamer said, “When that portal opens for two weeks at the end of April, you may get a call and someone you relied on as a starter may leave the club.” And luckily we didn't have that. But you just have to prepare.”

He added: “It's certainly a challenge and we all learn as coaches that there is no handbook to refer to. “I don't call my father, who was a coach for many years, and ask him how he dealt with the transfer portal or NIL, because he didn’t.”

This time South Carolina escaped April.

But for any college program, there can be an April when escape is impossible.

Anxiety overload

If coaches don't have a handbook to guide them in these changing times, fans don't even have a Cliff's Notes summary of a handbook. We couldn't even create a PowerPoint presentation with an overview of the contents of the manual.

Many of us now feel like we live in a chaotic universe where anything can happen at any time. At this point, I don't think it would surprise me if South Carolina's starting quarterback switched to the opposing team at halftime of a game and wore the other team's uniform in the second half. There's a vaguely professional wrestling atmosphere to the game at the moment: who are the heroes and who are the villains? Who knows?

This makes it feel like the sport has become only about fears – about worrying about whether this guy is coming or going, whether his NIL deal is stable enough, or whether this guy will get along enough with his position coach to justify staying in Columbia.

Of course, we're not the only fans worried. Every fan around the world does it.

This is the age of fear in college football.

The ground beneath our feet seems slippery.

And until we reach firmer ground, that's probably what we'll be talking about the most. Like you, I would like to talk about the schedule and starters.

But this is the new world we live in and these are the issues we have.

At least we survived April. This time.

Tell me what you think about getting through April by writing to [email protected].

Anna Harden

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