College Softball Now Has ‘Minor Leagues’

We’ve now had more than a thousand players enter the NCAA’s transfer portal.

More. Than. A thousand.

Players do have the right to go wherever they want to go but for every action there is a corresponding reaction.

There’s no doubt that we’ve now we’ve created is the biggest “haves versus have nots” scenario that Division I softball has ever seen. The big schools have had advantages for many years but the consequences of what is going on now are much more challenging and, in some cases, heartbreaking.

Chief among them? Mid-major programs have become the softball equivalent of triple-A baseball. Schools like Southern Illinois, North Texas, or any one of a couple dozen other schools is that they’re feeder programs of the big powerhouse schools. They get to be the farm teams for Oklahoma, Oklahoma State, Louisiana, or fill in the blank.

That is a real problem.

And the lower level Division I, Division II or NAIA schools are probably going to become the Double AA version of the minors because the higher D1 schools that are getting raided will have to fill in the holes on their rosters by pulling kids out of the transfer portal, too.

So everyone outside of the powerhouse programs has to come to grips with the fact that they are now going to have to recruit more like our junior-college colleagues. You have to go into each recruiting cycle knowing that if you are lucky enough to find a diamond in the rough, and work your butt off to try to develop them, there’s a good chance they’ll look for a chance to “follow their dreams” and take their talents to the big school that didn’t even know they were alive when they came out of high school.

Am I the only person whose heart aches for my coaching friends who are working their butts off to find and develop these kids? I hope not, but…

A couple years ago I created my dream team list of the very best players who ever played for me. Players who were great players at Wisconsin – Parkside or Tennessee Tech or Kennesaw State. It is a pretty impressive list of players who were All-Americans, conference players of the year, and even a Honda Award winner for Division II. If that list of players, with their skill level and accomplishments, were active players in the current world of college softball, I would be willing bet everything I own that many of them would be hitting the transfer portal to follow their dreams. And I would be willing to bet that if you asked many of the coaches who spent their careers at schools similar to kinds of school I coached at they would come to the same conclusion.

Yes, it’s great for the players who get to follow their dreams, but those dreams lead to nightmares for their old coaches and old teammates.