Brian Hartline Sees The Positives, Negatives Of Changing College Football Landscape

There are so many changes going on in college sports right now that in between the time that this gets written and read, something major may have been left out.

Name, Image, and Likeness is a year old, the transfer portal is still very much a toddler, and right now conference expansion is sending the sport into severe labor pains.

College coaches have no choice but to deal with all of it, even though none of it is their primary duty.

More and more, however, the changes are being put front and center.

“Yeah, I would say college football is definitely changing,” Ohio State receivers coach Brian Hartline said this spring. “And I think anytime there’s change, people will get disgruntled. People will have opinions. People will think something’s good, something’s bad. At the end of day, it’s changing. So our job and our quest is to best maximize the rules and regulations and all those things.”

Name, Image, and Likeness is an ongoing factor with cursory oversight from the NCAA. It can be used to land a recruit, but also to lure somebody else’s player into the transfer portal. Recruiting is the name of the game in college football, but the name is getting more and more difficult to pronounce.

“I guess it’s a very extensive thought that guardrails are important,” Hartline said. “You can have roads going anywhere but without guardrails, you just never know. It’s to minimize catastrophic issues. I think that guardrails are good. I think the ability to maximize one’s NIL is awesome. I don’t know, I think at the end of the day we’re in a world of speeding up the time clock and all we’re doing is we’re taking great parts of the NFL model and we’re throwing it into college football. And they’re 18 years old, they’re allowed to figure all that out. There’s just a lot happening at one time.”

The transfer portal has clouded the situation on all sides. Players don’t necessarily have the same amount of patience as they used to, and things are only made more manic by the thought that a player is missing out on NIL opportunities because they’re not playing. The portal then becomes an answer to both problems.

Or at least a theoretical answer.

“When you have many options, it’s up to the individual to decide which options are most important to them,” Hartline said. “To me, this is my take right now and I’m not saying it’s the exact take, but it’s kind of how I feel sometimes, to me the transfer portal is a great option. To me, it’s a great avenue for the right situation. It’s not right for every situation, but I’m not so sure I’ve seen a transfer portal make a player. That’s never been the reason why a player was successful.

“Now they may have played more and done more, but Justin Fields was going to be successful regardless of where he was at. Jameson Williams was gonna be successful regardless of where he finished at. That’s a fact. That’s how I feel. So in my opinion, you’re able to maybe change your clock and maybe speed things up. But to me, there’s still 1,500 people in the portal. They were all in college, they don’t have an education anymore. So is that a fail or is that a good thing? That’s all I’m saying. There’s always two sides to everything.”

Players have been empowered to control their own destinies, but if that destiny takes a little too long, the portal then becomes a more attractive option. Coaches can’t let that get in the way of developing them, but they also can’t ignore the possibility. It’s a fine line, but one that isn’t crossed lightly.

“Well yeah, it’s still a relationship that’s being lost, but at the end of the day they’re just trying to do what’s best for them,” Hartline said. “They got one shot. They’re 18 to 22 years old, they got one shot to try to maximize the opportunity to reach a goal. Sometimes they’re gonna be right, sometimes they’re gonna be wrong. Not everyone’s gonna be right. Not everyone’s gonna be wrong. But at the end of the day, everyone’s just trying to do what’s best. That’s all we’re trying to do. So there’s no ill will.”

Keeping players from leaving via the portal starts during recruiting and doesn’t stop. Head coach Ryan Day and his staff can’t be caught off guard by wandering eyes or early departures. Likewise, the players themselves have to understand what to expect as well. With the options available today, the importance of open communication between players and coaches has never been more imperative.

“Let’s be honest, I’m fully transparent with my guys. I always have been, I always will be. That’s the best way to go,” Hartline said. “So sometimes there’s conversations on ‘what’s my playing time looking like here Coach?’ Well, we get to have an honest conversation. So there’s a lot to it. I think navigating it is an imperfect science, but I think as long as you stay genuine as an individual and you treat these young men and communicate with them like you would your own son, at the end of the day right or wrong, it’s with a clear conscience.”