For three seasons, quarterback Vernon Adams Jr. was arguably the most valuable football player at Eastern Washington.
Now two years removed from Cheney, Adams is Mr. Inspirational, the unwitting catalyst for a remarkable website created by a pair of young Spokane entrepreneurs.
CollegeFreeAgent.com is one of those “why-didn’t-I-think-of-that?” ideas, a searchable database of redshirt junior athletes throughout the nation. It includes thousands of athletes, men and women, in 10 different sports.
More than anything, it’s a monumental time-saver for college coaches who want to get ahead of the curve in pursuing graduate transfers.
After paying a subscription fee ($185 annually for an NCAA Division I and II, and $55 for Division III and NAIA), coaches can peruse the database of redshirt juniors for possible transfer candidates.
CFA isn’t a scouting service and makes no judgments on an athlete’s ability or availability; it’s main selling point is convenience.
“It’s exciting to use, and the feedback has been really positive,” said Bryce Westfall, a Lewis and Clark graduate who’s now a sophomore at the University of Washington.
Westfall declined to say how many customers use collegefreeagent.com, but said the site is “off to a really good start.”
The seed was planted in the spring of 2015, when Adams moved from Eastern to Oregon as a graduate transfer and boosted his stock for a professional career.
Westfall’s father, Mike, a former coach and currently the vice president for university advancement at EWU, saw an opportunity – but not for himself.
“When Vernon transferred, my dad and I started discussing the process,” Bryce Westfall said.
Enter Matt Montoya, an East Valley grad who was taking Running Start classes in Cheney in 2015, but “had no idea who Vernon Adams was.”
However, Montoya is handy with a website. He struck up a conversation with the elder Westfall at an entrepreneurial breakfast at the Spokane Convention Center, and soon was introduced to Bryce.
“I didn’t even know what a redshirt junior was,” said the 19-year-old Montoya. But Montoya is a quick study; currently on a break from studies, he’s working on several other web-based enterprises.
Montoya is the tekkie while Westfall, 20, is the sports-marketing guru. He contacts coaches, answers questions and tries to close the deal.
They launched the project a year ago. The learning curve began with a steep uphill grade.
“I learned that this sort of thing takes a lot longer than you’d expect – it’s a lot of work,” Westfall said. “There was a lot of trial and error, but the coaches love how easy it is to use.”
Westfall and Montoya are on the ground floor of a growth industry. In 2011, graduate transfers in football amounted to just 17 athletes. By 2015 that number was up to 108. Men’s basketball saw a similar increase, from 15 to 68.
Growth is flatter in other sports, but women’s sports saw a doubling in grad transfers during the same period.