When it became clear last year Sam Hartman would be using the transfer portal to Notre Dame from Wake Forest, and the two teams would be playing against each other this Fall, expectations were that the game would have serious ramifications.
Sam’s team might would have been playing for a spot in the College Football Playoff and Wake Forest may have been striving for a 10-win season and possibly a high-ranking in the final regular season ACC standings.
None of this came close to happening.
Notre Dame has lost three games and is headed, probably, to a pedestrian post-season bowl game – surely not what Notre Dame fans had in mind when they went after Hartman to be their signal caller. As disappointing as this has been for Sam and Notre Dame, what’s happened to Wake Forest this season has been even more disappointing. The team has lost six of its last seven games and has a paltry and surprisingly bad record of 4 wins and 6 losses.
What has transpired with Hartman and Wake Forest football over the past year is a somber picture of what can happen when college football players enter the transfer portal. I don’t think anyone could argue that had Hartman stayed at Wake the team would have won at least two or three more games and the sadness that now is swallowing up the team would not have happened.
As for Sam, he may have thought he would gain more exposure with pro football scouts to see him play in a more traditional pro-style offense, and that would have better positioned him to become a high draft pick. But he probably hasn’t raised his draft status at all for his play this season. He was more prolific and impressive last season at Wake Forest. Had he stayed at Wake he would have had another impressive season and likely would have elevated his draft status higher than it will be now.
So because of the opportunities presented by the transfer portal, Hartman didn’t really gain an advantage – except for more money than Wake could have paid him to stay. Nor did Wake Forest.
What’s the lesson here?
Be careful what you wish for. Sam saw dollar signs and a chance to better his chances of becoming a pro quarterback by moving to Notre Dame. But the gamble didn’t really pan out. He’s now regarded as a rather mediocre college quarterback playing at Notre Dame, whereas with Wake he was much more of a star.
Wake Forest lost a very productive player, couldn’t do anything to stop it, and this is the main reason they’re having their worst season in many years.
Not every transfer portal case has turned out this way. But it sure feels like it messed up Hartman and Wake Forest big-time.
Money became an issue. Wanting to be a bigger star became an issue.
For Wake, losing talent became a massive issue and there doesn’t seem to be any easy way to prevent this kind of scenario from happening again.
Because of the money involved. It’s always, one way or the other, about the money. But money didn’t buy anyone happiness in this case, as it never does.
As I watch the game this weekend, I know it’s going to be a melancholy experience. I’ll be thinking about what this Wake Forest football season could have been – but wasn’t. I’ll be thinking about what college football was before it became professional, free-agency football – and how unstable this all feels. I’ll be thinking about why people so often become beguiled by money and fame and forget how great their situations are right where they are.
I’ll be thinking most somberly about Mitch Griffis, who has had one of the saddest experiences of any human being this Fall. Three years of backing up Hartman at quarterback, and when he finally got his chance he just didn’t play well and has been benched probably for the rest of this season and beyond. Just like that – back on the bench. I feel that pain.
Everything he tried didn’t work. Maybe he wasn’t ready. Maybe it was too much pressure. The reasons don’t matter as much as our sympathy for this young man whose football career is now over. It didn’t end well. Horribly, actually. A nice young man going through Hell.
Sadness all around.
Sadness about the transfer portal. Sadness the way it used to be is no longer. Sadness that life had to change, that the losses piled up, that nothing worked out as any of us hoped. Sadness that life always keep changing and there’s nothing we can do about it except roll with it, adapt, try harder, learn more, think differently, make ourselves even more mentally taxed than we already are.
We love you, Mitch.
Life will get better for you.
No one deserves a break more than you. You’ll get yours.
Sadness isn’t forever.
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