We conclude our list of the Top 15 Softball Stories of 2019 with the #1 story of the year as determined by our Extra Inning Softball staff.
Also, be sure to come back tomorrow, January 1, 2020 to see what other stories were considered for the Top 15 list!
Here are the previous Top 2019 softball stories (clink on link to read):
- #15… Team USA Dominates Summer Competition… with One Exception
- #14… USA Softball’s 2020 Stand Beside Her Tour… Taking the Brand Nationwide
- #13… Sam Show’s Bat Flips - & Clutch Performances - Light Up the 2019 Season
- #12… National High School Player of the Year Sydney Supple Spearheads Hometown Field of Dreams
- #11… Busy Year for the NPF Including USSSA Pride Out & CA Commotion In
- #10… PGF Nationals Celebrates 10 Years with Barnburner Finishes
- #9… Coaches Accused of Abuse by Players at Power 5 Colleges
- #8… Mark Campbell’s Death Stuns Club & High School Softball World
- #7… September 1 Becomes a Special Day in Recruiting (Again)
- #6… 2020 Tokyo Olympic Field of Six Finalized
- #5... Geri Ann Glasco Dies in Car Accident… Softball Community Mourns, Rallies Behind Glasco Family
- #4... UCLA Back on Top with WCWS Title, Rachel Garcia Repeats as National Player of the Year
- #3... Softball Out at 2024 Paris Olympics
- #2... USA Olympic Team Selected for 2020 Tokyo Games
We surveyed the softball community and talked internally as well to come up with what were the most impactful and relevant stories of the year pertaining in the world of fastpitch softball.
Where applicable, we are providing links to the original articles and/or references when the story first happened.
Today’s story… #1… the Transfer Portal. Although it’s not softball specific—recently, there have been reports, for example, of high-profile football players entering the NCAA Transfer Portal—it’s definitely had an impact on the fastpitch world. Hundreds of college players have felt they can get a fresh start by entering the portal and moving elsewhere, which not only impacts the current program they’re at, but also has a trickle-down effect into the high school and club ranks.
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It’s funny, two years ago at this time the hot topic in softball was the impact of Early Recruiting on the game. By April of 2018, steps were put in place to “course correct” and within months the issue was solves.
Since then, what we’ve seen is another problem rise up which has just gone higher in the age level of softball competition—the Transfer Portal, where college players can pretty easily put themselves back onto the recruiting market, only this time they’re not high school aged (or younger), they’re college players.
At the NFCA Convention in Atlantic City earlier in December, the stat was presented that 125 softball players have transferred since August—a span of about three months—and an estimated 80 percent of those were freshman.
For the past year or so, many top programs have seen players come and go; it’s well documented how programs at DI programs from Auburn to UCLA, Oregon to Texas, Oklahoma to Florida, Louisiana-Lafayette to Wisconsin, have seen a significant of comings-and-goings for various reasons..
One Power 5 college coach said today, “If you look at the players in the Portal, 95 percent of players aren’t happy with their role at their school. So it can be a win/win if they go somewhere that’s a better fit, especially when it comes to playing time.”
Is it a case where the players have taken back some of the power as to where they play? The answer is… somewhat.
“Players need to have some power with the Portal, which they do, but it has to be at a time that wouldn’t hurt the school.”
Extra Inning Softball spoke to several college and club coaches and the majority felt that the concept of the Transfer Portal was a positive overall, the main problem has been the timing of when a player leaves.
One top club coach said, “Coaches understand it’s a necessary evil, the problem is the mid-year transfer. Coaches hate to invest time and energy recruiting to develop a player and then the player doesn’t stick around long and the school is left holding the bag. But it goes both ways as coaches have the power to push a player out and not renew scholarships too.”
At the NCAA Convention, there were several high-profile head coaches trying to pass immediate legislation to stop mid-year transfers but, unlike at the 2017 NCAA Convention when things were set in motion for the April 2018 implementation of the Early Recruiting Rules, it hasn’t happened… yet. However, you can be assured that it will be evaluated in the near-future.
“I would appreciate if it went away,” a Big 12 college coach said today of the mid-year transfer. “It’s better if you can know that who you have in your program heading into the season is the group that you can count on and there won’t be any surprises.”
Younger players and their coaches in the travel ball world are suddenly faced with a scary reality: the money that conceptually would have been there for prospective student-athletes coming out of high school, may be held back to fix immediate needs when players become available in the Portal.
Three of the top club coaches in softball addressed this earlier in the fall on an Extra Inning Softball podcast posted on Nov. 19, 2019 (well-worth the time to listen!).
Another concern that isn’t discussed much publicly yet, but coaches one do worry about, is tampering. Some feel it's already happening, where colleges are setting the wheels in motion to bring in a player who could help immediately at a position of need.
“It’s definitely going on, I know it is,” a title-winning club coach stated. “It’s part of the problem with the system that will need to be addressed soon, because I don’t want to be used as an agent where college coaches are asking me if former players would look to move.”
Still, most feel if adjusted as needed the Transfer Portal will end up being a positive force in college softball.
“The way the Transfer Portal operates overall is correct,” a Power 5 recruiting coordinator explained. “If done right, it allows a course correction for the kid to be at the right place.”
*** Scroll down to read select Extra Inning Softball articles from 2019 touching on the wide-spread impact of the Transfer Portal!