ITHACA, NY -- In a year where “surreal” feels more real than “real,” a science-fiction-like term is making the rounds in the sports world. That term — “entering the transfer portal” — found its way into the local lexicon recently when it was announced that three Cornell basketball players have made that choice and are now exploring other “landing zones,” so to speak.
The transfer portal is essentially a database of every player who has interest in transferring from his or her current school. While the portal website is not public, coaches and administrators for NCAA schools have access, and once a player enters his or her name into the database, it becomes viewable by coaches from every other school.
While Cornell hoops fans were saddened to learn that seniors Jimmy Boeheim, Terrance McBride and Bryan Knapp have elected to enter the portal and possibly transfer, it’s safe to say that every fan understands (if not supports) their decision to do so. Most of these athletes have worked hard since they were old enough to pick up a basketball, and every player good enough to play at the DI level looks to his or her senior season with great anticipation. For some, it is an opportunity to enjoy their last season with the teammates with whom they have labored to build a program, and for others — like potential pro players — it can be a stepping stone to the next level.
The three Big Red players were all gearing up to make a run at the Ivy title that has eluded the program for a decade, and all had plenty of reasons to believe this would be their best year ever. Boeheim led the team with a 16.7 point scoring average, and the 6’8” forward with great hands and footwork was effective in the paint as well as from the perimeter. McBride and Knapp started all 27 games last season, and one can only imagine the disappointment when the Ivy League made the announcement on Nov. 12 that the winter sports season would be canceled. The athletes had put in the same amount of work as they always have, and the late pulling of the plug was as frustrating as it was disappointing.
Boeheim’s brother, Buddy (a junior who plays for their father, Jim, at Syracuse University), was quoted as saying, "I couldn't imagine finding out right now that our season was canceled [after] all the hard work he's put in this summer. We worked out every day together. I was really looking forward to see what he was going to do this year. He was going to have a big year."
At this writing, there are several possibilities going forward. The players could stay at Cornell. Cornell’s Boeheim could finish his degree requirements and earn his Cornell degree in May, and then transfer elsewhere. Another possibility is that he could play immediately in the 2021-22 season at Syracuse (or another school, for that matter) as a graduate transfer.
Yet another possibility looms, given the NCAA has granted all winter sports athletes an extra year of eligibility; Boeheim could also play in the 2022-23 season as well.
According to Jeremy Hartigan, Cornell's Director of Athletic Communications, "For now all three players are just keeping their options open. They each have different academic situations and need to figure out their best individual options. I would suspect they’ll make a decision sometime over the holiday break."
Whether we’re talking about high school sports or collegiate sports, the general sentiment is that while we all feel bad for all the athletes, the seniors have the lion’s share of our sympathy. We saw the proverbial rug pulled out from under the class of 2020 when the NCAA Big Dance was canceled last spring, and we all held our collective breath while hoping that things would be back to normal when the students returned this fall. That obviously didn’t happen, and now yet another group of seniors is left to deal with the fact that they may have played their last game, or that they might finish their career with a different program.