How NIL and the Transfer Portal Power Oklahoma, College Softball’s Most Dominant Team

OKLAHOMA CITY, OK - JUNE 9: Pitcher Jordy Bahl #98 of the Oklahoma Sooners wraps up for a pitch against the Texas Longhorns in the second inning during the NCAA Women's College World Series Finals at the USA Softball Hall of Fame Complex on June 9, 2022 in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.  Oklahoma won the NCAA championship with a 10-5 win.  (Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images)

Jordy Bahl’s pitching dominance earned her the Women’s College World Series Most Outstanding Player award. (Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images)

Oklahoma softball made history Thursday night, winning its third consecutive national title and becoming only the second team in NCAA softball history to do so. The Sooners finished the 2023 season with an overall record of 61-1, and they will enter the 2024 season on a 53-game winning streak.

Although the Sooners have been a staple of the Women’s College World Series since the early 2000s, they make full use of name, image and likeness rules, as well as the transfer portal to retain their existing talent while acquiring new ones. assets.

“Oklahoma is doing a very good job. They are doing a great job in all cylinders, from recruiting and development to meeting NIL, program and team development,” Florida State head coach Lonni Alameda said. after his team’s second loss to Oklahoma in WCWS 2023.

According to On3’s Jeremy Crabtree, three of the five highest NIL ratings in NCAA softball at the start of the 2023 season belonged to Oklahoma players. Receiver Kinzie Hansen, infielder Grace Lyons and pitcher Jordy Bahl have NIL valuations ranging from $46,000 to $62,000, according to On3.

Bahl has a partnership with Crimson and Cream, a NIL collective focused on OU student-athletes. Another NIL collective for Oklahoma athletes is 1Oklahoma, which features Lyon and infielder Tiare Jennings on the front page of its website. Crimson and Cream and 1Oklahoma allow fans to donate directly to OU softball players on their respective webpages.

Besides NIL collectives, some Sooners use their NIL in other ways. Several Oklahoma softball players can be found on Cameo, a website where fans can purchase custom videos of athletes and celebrities.

“They have opportunities to be entrepreneurs while they’re student-athletes,” Oklahoma head coach Patty Gasso said. “It’s unreal. I’m still learning how to handle it the best I can for them.

Gasso may still be figuring out how best to use NIL for her team, but she seems to have figured out the transfer portal.

Oklahoma coach Patty Gasso, right, talks to Alyssa Brito during the sixth inning of the NCAA Women's College World Series softball team game against Stanford on Thursday, June 1, 2023 in Oklahoma City.  (AP Photo/Nate Billings)

Oklahoma head coach Patty Gasso, right, talks to Alyssa Brito during the sixth inning of the team’s NCAA Women’s College Softball World Series June 1. Brito transferred to the program from Oregon. (AP Photo/Nate Billings)

The Sooners also seem to dominate the transfer portal

Many Oklahoma role players who helped finish the treble weren’t on the roster at the end of the 2022 season.

Former Michigan pitcher Alex Storako finished her lone season in Oklahoma with a 1.15 ERA in 29 appearances, including 18 starts. Storako pitched the bulk of Thursday night’s win over Florida State that sealed the Sooners’ national title.

Oregon transfer Alyssa Brito had a .412 batting average, which was second highest on Oklahoma’s roster. Brito also tied Jennings and Jayda Coleman for most homers on the season, with each athlete hitting 17 apiece. Transfer Texas A&M Haley Lee had the second most home runs with 14 of his own, respectfully.

Transfers impacted Oklahoma even before the 2023 season. Taylon Snow, who spent two years at Auburn before ending his college career at Oklahoma, had a .333 batting average, four RBIs and one hit. homer at the 2022 WCWS. Jana Johns was Oklahoma’s third base starter for the 2021 and 2022 seasons after three years in South Carolina.

With outstanding regular season and playoff records, plus NIL, it’s easy to see how Norman is a top destination for softball players who want to take full advantage of their skills.

“I wanted to do something big and be part of something big,” Aggie’s transferee Lee told Softball America. “So I decided that OU was going to do it for me.”

While the Sooners have yet to announce any new additions to their roster, they already have plenty of talented players on the portal to choose from. Infielder Taryn Kern, the 2023 Big Ten player and rookie of the year, announced this week that she will be moving from Indiana. 2022 SEC freshman Bri Ellis of Auburn also hit the portal.

Even though Gasso’s next moves are still unclear, there’s no doubt the Sooners can really boast about reloading, not rebuilding. Oklahoma shows there is a way in the NIL era to not just win, but dominate, while engaging the transfer portal and developing young talent at the same time.

“I think the one thing Oklahoma does, and we all try to do, is they get better every year,” Alameda said. “What they were at the championships a few years ago, they are now a better version of themselves. We all have to do this.

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