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Gordon: Despite Jayden Maiava’s loss, transfer portal benefits UNLV

The NCAA’s transfer portal giveth to UNLV’s football team — and alas, the transfer portal taketh away.

The Rebels are in dire need of a starting quarterback as of Monday evening, when Mountain West Freshman of the Year and former Liberty standout Jayden Maiava announced he’s transferring … barely a week after he said he was planning to stay at UNLV.

Don’t hate the player: He gets to reverse course and make the best decision for himself and his family, having earned opportunities elsewhere with stellar play this season.

Don’t hate the game, either: UNLV built its team in 2023 — its best season since 1984 — through the transfer portal and should mine it for Maiava’s potential replacement.

The portal isn’t going anywhere and shouldn’t go anywhere, either. Players who create revenue for their respective universities deserve the freedom to find better football and financial situations with money readily available via compensation for their name, image and likeness.

Maiava — completing 63.5 percent of passes for 3,085 passing yards, 17 touchdowns and 10 interceptions and leading three game-winning drives — is obviously seeking what he deems to be a better opportunity.

Said Rebels coach Barry Odom after Maiava’s final game for UNLV, a 49-36 loss last week to Kansas in the Guaranteed Rate Bowl at Chase Field in Phoenix: “I think he can be an elite quarterback in college football.”

It would seem Maiava thinks so, too.

The portal is a positive

That he’s good enough to transfer up is a testament to Odom and offensive coordinator Brennan Marion, who cultivated during their first season in Las Vegas a winning program and a Power Four caliber quarterback.

With eight months to prepare for his looming absence, who says they can’t do it again?

The father of All-America wideout Ricky White sure thinks they can, expressing confidence Monday night in Odom and Marion on the social platform formerly known as Twitter.

“The offense is intriguing and ready-made and they are adding talent daily,” the elder White wrote on X.

The transfer portal has actually been more of an advantage than disadvantage for the Rebels, who have stocked their roster with former Power Four players in roles more prominent than their previous programs.

White started his career at Michigan State, and All-America kicker Jose Pizano arrived in Las Vegas by way of Missouri State. Also transferring to UNLV were all-conference linebacker Jackson Woodard (Arkansas), kick returner Jacob De Jesus (Modesto Junior College) — and 40 or so of their teammates in 2023.

The Rebels obviously aren’t at the top of the transfer portal totem and probably won’t be without connecting to a major conference.

But they aren’t at the bottom anymore, either.

Dollars and sense

To maintain their newfound standing, though, it would seem they need a larger reservoir of NIL dollars as to prevent the more premium college football programs from plucking away more of their top players.

A good problem to have, UNLV’s history considered, and the byproduct of its newfound success.

“We know who we are. We know where we’ve got to go and how to get there,” Odom said after the Kansas loss. “You start the rebuild of the next team, and every team is going to look different, just like this team. … Now you build the next team through recruiting and the development of the roster that you have.”

UNLV’s rebuild is already underway.

Contact Sam Gordon at sgordon@reviewjournal.com. Follow @BySamGordon on X.

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