Gerry Glasco doesn’t mind being called Transfer U. While it’s not a moniker that he encourages, he’s well-aware that his Ragin’ Cajuns team has reaped many benefits from the NCAA’s transfer portal since Glasco himself arrived in Lafayette in the winter of 2017.
Just within the last week, the Cajuns announced the additions of former Georgia standouts Ciara Bryan and Justice Milz. Both players joined the Cajuns’ program only a couple of weeks after entering the transfer portal, leading some social media users to fan the flames of conjecture on how the pair of big-name additions were able to fit into the team’s roster so late in the year.
On Wednesday afternoon, JWOS sat down with Glasco for a conversation that spanned more than an hour. In the midst of the hustle and bustle of National Signing Day, the veteran coach discussed his approach to the transfer portal; his perspective on why so many former SEC and Power 5 transfers choose to wind up in Lafayette; and the unique setup that allows him to carry such a star-filled roster.
When Glasco was hired by Louisiana-Lafayette in November 2017, he knew the most imperative task in front of him: “We needed to win quickly,” he says.
After a mass exodus of players followed former head coach Michael Lotief out the door – a group that included sluggers DJ Sanders and Aleah Craighton, among others – Glasco needed to retool his roster and add some experienced bats and arms in order for his team to remain at the highly-competitive level to which they had become accustomed.
That’s where the transfer portal came in immediately handy.
Since 2018, Glasco has added a total of seventeen Division I transfers to his roster. Thirteen of those players came from Power 5 institutions, and eight of them directly from an SEC program. That latter number includes both Bryan and Milz, as well as Karly Heath, who joined the Cajuns this summer after transferring from South Carolina.
A rabid, vocal fan base is one of the biggest drawing points for his program, Glasco believes. “Dedicated fan support can’t be beaten,” he noted. While factors like geography and status as perennial competitors also play a role, Glasco credits the Cajun fanbase with a healthy share of the credit for creating an environment that mimics that of many top-conference schools.
Glasco’s approach to roster-building is starkly different from that of his immediate predecessor in Lafayette. Whereas Lotief famously built his roster primarily on players from the south Louisiana and surrounding regions, Glasco has concentrated on bringing in experienced bats and arms via transfer. It’s a practice that has paid off – the Cajuns were #1 in RPI at the end of the abbreviated 2020 season – but not one that Glasco intends to utilize forever.
“When we first came in [to Lafayette], we sat down and I identified at what point I felt like we would have the players coming in that right-away could help get us where we needed to be,” Glasco said. “I’ve always prided myself on [my]recruiting skills, and I think that’s a place that I’ve done pretty well in over the years, but we needed to build the roster up and the competition level needed to be high from day one.”
Speaking of competition, that’s another hallmark of Glasco’s program. “A Culture of Competitiveness” is how he describes his program.
“Every area is a contest,” Glasco said. “Running, throwing, and batting; even home runs in weekly batting contests are measured and totaled. Every athlete constantly knows how they rank or competed in every contest or measurable skill… unfortunately, in a competitive culture, not only do you have athletes that win contests or are successful, but you conversely have athletes that lose, or fail.”
Noting the NCAA’s extended eligibility waiver for spring sport athletes that granted a blanket extra year of eligibility, Glasco discussed how the larger roster allowances created even more competition for certain roles than wouldn’t have otherwise been in play.
“When we were preparing for [the 2021 season], we didn’t expect to have Summer [Ellyson] or Alissa Dalton back,” Glasco said. “So you have new players coming in, and there are position battles that we had no idea would even happen. But it gives all of our freshmen and existing players reason to work even harder and continue to get better.”
Whether they’re at the high school level or a potential transfer addition, Glasco said he is always upfront with players that he wants to wind up as Cajuns. “Every athlete is told and should know that it will never be easy to play and compete for UL softball,” Glasco said.
Asked if he had ever removed a player from his team to make room for a potential transfer addition, Glasco was a bit incredulous as he replied in the negative. “Never,” he responded firmly. “Not only is it against the rules, that’s just not something I would do.”
Prior to the announcements of Bryan and Milz’s signings, five Cajun players entered the transfer portal. Social media “reports” immediately adjudged the quintet of players to have been forced out to create roster space for the incoming pair, though Glasco quickly disputed that allegation.
“I always keep money available for fall transfers,” he said. “The money that became available from the players who decided to transfer is going to bump up [the scholarships of]some players who are already on our roster and have worked hard and deserve it.”
Later, Glasco also referenced the size of his team’s roster. The Cajuns carried 31 players on their roster entering the fall season, though medical personnel have recommended a travel roster between 18 and 22 players in total during the spring season. Even with the recent moves, the Cajuns’ roster currently stands at 26 players, meaning more decisions will be made in the early part of 2021 as to who will travel with the team and who will not.
The most popular question surrounding Glasco’s roster is how he manages to carry such a high number of top-dollar players while still abiding by the NCAA’s scholarship limits. The answer to that question goes back to a simple, rather unique setup that allows the school to waive certain out-of-state fees if the student-athletes reach and maintain certain academic levels.
“The student-athlete is very important,” Glasco said. “Because of the way our system is set up, if we bring in players who are not only great athletes but great students, then it enables them to get a great education and us to be able to field a roster with the kind of competition that is key to maintaining a culture of competitiveness.”