Blue-Gray Sky has posted a nice summary and discussion of the transfers out of the Notre Dame football program under Coach Charlie Weis. I posted a comment over there, but I wanted to throw it up here (with a little development) since it ended up being fairly long and it is something I have been thinking about for a while.
I think as the talent rises and you get more guys in the program who think they have NFL talent, you're going to see transfers when those guys who think they can play in the NFL get buried on the depth chart. Years ago, very few guys playing college football really thought they had NFL ability, and even those with next-level ability didn't fixate on it because playing in the NFL wasn't the equivalent of hitting the lottery like it is today. Too many kids today think they can play in "the league" and think that millions of dollars await them if only they can get on the field in college and showcase their skills. It doesn't occur to them that if they aren't good enough to rise to the top of the depth chart and dominate in college at a major program, they probably aren't going to be playing on Sundays. Far be it from me to tell a kid he can't chase his dream. But I find it very interesting to see the schools the guys are transferring to. Not exactly perennial BCS powers.
From a pure football standpoint, while it will impact short-term depth, the transfer of a guy who isn't going to play much actually helps the team. You get a scholarship back from a kid who isn't going to have an impact on the field, and get a "Mulligan" to give that scholarship to another kid who may become a star. This will actually help the overall talent level of the team rise even faster.
The mid-season transfers really puzzle me though. I can totally understand the Spring or Summer transfer. But transferring in mid-season is really selfish and it hurts your team and your teammates. It is quitting. That's harsh, but I don't know what else to call it. I can't help but wonder what these guys are thinking. While they are starting they expect the guys behind them on the depth chart to keep plugging away. They expect the scout team guys to work hard to make the starters better. But as soon as they fall to #2 behind a teammate who has been at their side in the weight room, who has been there for the puking wind sprints in the early morning, who has sweated and bled with them on the practice field in the heat and the cold, they quit. If I'm not the starter, I'm outta here! This seems very selfish and primadonna to me. That does not show good character. It also shows that perhaps team chemistry is not where it should be.
It could be that each of these kids has a complex set of other reasons for leaving. They might be struggling in class. They have a lousy roommate. Their Mom is sick. They miss their girlfriend back home who has taken up with a basketball player. And losing with the whole country watching magnifies everything. For many of these kids this 1-6 start is probably the worst adversity any of them have ever faced. They have been star athletes on winning teams since they were 4 years old. To be on the bench and losing is a totally new experience, and some of them aren't coping very well.
I don't think the transfer issue will ever completely disappear, but I think it will dwindle significantly once the winning resumes. And when the winning resumes, the team will be better off without selfish players, without players who cannot fight through adversity, without guys who quit on their teammates in the middle of a tough season.