MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — As the transfer portal and name, image and likeness evolve, so does the landscape of college athletics.
Now more than ever, programs have to adapt to the ever-changing environment in order to stay competitive.
While there are positives and negatives that come along with the portal and NIL, WVU safeties coach Dontae Wright said the bottom line is teams have to accept they are going to lose players as a result.
“If they aren’t playing, they are going to be unhappy and they are going to get out. I understand that one. If they are playing and they still want to leave, those are the ones that really bother you,” Wright said. “If he’s getting reps and still thinking about leaving, then you probably have the wrong person anyways.”
While it does also provide an opportunity for teams to pick up players who immediately meet their needs, it’s hard for coaches to not take those decisions personally.
Wright said that’s the hardest part of navigating the new age of college athletics.
“You are going to pour into some of these men, and they are still going to make the decision to say the grass is greener on the other side,” he said. “There’s a lot of reasons. They got the wrong people in their ear. They are tasting dollar signs. Some of that you just can’t get around, and it hurts. It really truly hurts.”
That’s why, in the face of change, Wright has stayed true to his coaching philosophy. Since he arrived at WVU, he said his style was tough love, and he’s never changed his approach.
If anything, it’s made him realize why tough love is even more important.
Wright said the best thing you can do as a coach is build real connections with your players and hope that foundation makes them decide to stay, even if an alternate option is thrown their way.
“If you build real, genuine relationships, you can still coach them hard no matter what,” Wright said. “They know you aren’t attacking the person, you are attacking the product because you want the product to be better because it could be better and it should be.”
Where Wright has seen it be effective is in those players who strive to improve. Even when they are seeing success, they are still doing everything possible to continue to grow.
Sometimes that method pays off, sometimes it makes no difference.
“Yes, money makes an influence, and you have different conversations,” Wright said. “At the end of the day, if you have real relationships with them, you are going to have a chance to keep them and coach them really, really hard and get what you want out of them.”