SLUH grad Andrew Clair navigates life in the NCAA transfer portal

Sports

Bowling Green running back Andrew Clair (1) rushes during an NCAA football game on Thursday, Aug. 29, 2019 in Bowling Green, Ohio. (AP Photo/Rick Osentoski)

ST. LOUIS–College athletes have long been able to decide that they wanted to take their talents elsewhere to finish out their eligibility. Sometimes, it’s because the coaching staff that brought a player to campus moves on to a new school, or because the playing time which was promised didn’t end up panning out.

In recent years, the number of graduate transfers, players who graduate before their eligibility expires and are able to play elsewhere immediately without penalty, have exploded in the world of college football and basketball. With the NCAA giving players a free year of eligibility due to the coronavirus pandemic, and the expectation that players will soon be granted a one-time transfer option without penalty, Sports Illustrated found that as of earlier this month, of 964 players who had been on scholarship at one school, “nearly 60% (558) are uncommitted and still searching for a landing spot.”

FOX2 spoke with one of those people, SLUH grad Andrew Clair.

Clair has spent the past four years at Bowling Green, where he ran for 1,937 yards and 13 TDs and also caught 44 passes for four touchdowns for the Falcons.

February 8, he announced he was entering the transfer portal.

Transferring had been on his mind for a while. The staff which recruited him to Bowling Green was fired in the middle of his sophomore year. He played in four games in his junior year, earning a redshirt while still leading the Falcons in rushing yards per game and tying for the team lead with 4 touchdowns.

The pandemic would limit his football season in 2020 to six games but came with a far greater personal price. His uncle, Keith Clair, Sr. died from COVID-19. His sister, Tinisha Watson, died from COVID-19 two weeks later in September. He found out about her death on the practice field.

Andrew Clair lost his sister Tinisha Watson, right, to COVID-19 in September 2020, after losing his uncle to the virus three weeks earlier. Photo Courtesy Andrew Clair

If his football life had him thinking a re-evaluation was in order, the impact of the whirlwind of the last year on his personal life may have helped give him the push to make a move.

He talked to coaches and teammates, he prayed about it, and considered it from “every which way”, and decided to enter the transfer portal, even though he knows that with so many players already looking, there’s no guarantee he’ll end up on scholarship somewhere else or even on the same level of competition.

“I finally came down to the conclusion that I have to better myself at some point. If I want to succeed I’m going to have to take risks and this is definitely one of the times I took a risk and as of right now, it’s paying off,” Clair said.

He won’t divulge who he’s heard from, but described schools ranging from Power 5 conference teams and Group of 5 programs to FCS and Division II programs. Clair said he wants a new home with the right culture, a love of the game, close to home and the ability to compete.

He’ll graduate in May with a degree in Marketing but in a lot of ways is taking a crash course on marketing himself to potential schools. He says the experience isn’t as great as some people suggested it could be, but also not as bad as others had warned him it could be.

Clair is optimistic that he’ll have a landing spot identified in the next month, with the goal of competing for playing time at his next school in June.

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