The Big 12 presidents and representatives are meeting in Irving, Texas to discuss the long-term future of the conference. Among the many items being discussed are: Should the conference expand?, A conference-television network, Should the conference hold a championship game with only 10 members?
Those are the big changes that need to be discussed and decided on. A lesser item on the docket but still equally important to all schools was the conference rule regarding walk-on transfers. As the rule currently is written, a walk-on who transferred within conference was required to sit out a year of eligibility. This rule comes front and center with Big 12 Player of the Year, Baker Mayfield.
Baker walked on to the Texas Tech Red Raiders football team and earned the starting quarterback position after a back injury to Michael Brewer in 2013. Baker started the year well, throwing for 1,488 yards in five games including wins over TCU and Kansas. Mayfield was hurt in the third quarter of the Kansas game and missed the next four games before returning for the final three contests. Baker missed the bowl game against Arizona State, which Texas Tech won 37-23 behind the arm of quarterback Davis Webb. Mayfield was named the Big 12 Freshman of the Year.
Following the 2013 season, Mayfield believed he had done enough to earn the starting position and a scholarship. A "miscommunication" between head coach Kliff Kingsbury and Mayfield led to Mayfield deciding to transfer from Texas Tech.
According to Wikipedia, Mayfield transferred to Oklahoma without informing the Sooners coaches. He stated he sought a transfer "due to scholarship issues and a perception that he had earned the starting position and that further competition was not "really fair". Whether or not further competition was fair, he likely had done enough to earn a scholarship.
Mayfield sought a NCAA appeal of the rule that required him to sit out a year of eligibility because he transferred to another D-1A school. The NCAA grants waivers for non-recruited, non-scholarship athletes to be eligible immediately at their new Division I-A school, as long as the original school approves of the transfer. Officials from Oklahoma asked Texas Tech officials to authorize Mayfield's immediate eligibility, but Texas Tech officials objected and declined their request.
It makes sense for Texas Tech to want to deny the rule because Mayfield is transferring within the conference, but as a non-scholarship player, the rule is archaic. If a school does not want a player to transfer, offer him a scholarship. Texas Tech chose not to and therefore Mayfield wanted a place where he could play and be on scholarship.
Big 12 Spring Meetings
The Big 12 presidents and representatives met on Wednesday to discuss what essentially is "The Baker Mayfield Rule". Originally proposed, the Big 12 voted 5-5 in favor of the new rule, meaning it did not gain a majority to get passed. Here is why:
Bowlsby: opposition to the walk-on rule change didn’t want Big 12 teams luring other team’s walk-ons with the promise of scholarships— Jake Trotter (@Jake_Trotter) June 1, 2016
Presidents voted down the proposal because they feared that other conference schools would offer their walk-on players a scholarship, something the first school was not willing to do. Facepalm. Bob Stoops took to Twitter and expressed his dissatisifaction with the vote.
Bob Stoops issues statement on the Baker Mayfield ruling: pic.twitter.com/y9InOaAvss— Jake Trotter (@Jake_Trotter) June 2, 2016
Stoops is right to be upset. It does impact Baker Mayfield but it also sets a precedent. Schools can keep walk-on players hostage by not offering them a scholarship and forcing them to lose a year of eligibility if they want to transfer. Perhaps because of Bob Stoops or because it was the right thing to do, the Big 12 reconvened and re-worded the rule.
But Thursday morning, as ESPN.com reported earlier, the reps reconvened and considered a similar rule proposal with a slight change. Instead of allowing all walk-ons to transfer regardless, the reps amended the original proposal, allowing only walk-ons without written scholarship offers from their original schools to transfer without losing a season of eligibility. If the walk-on elected to transfer after being offered a scholarship from the original school, then the player would face the league's same eligibility restrictions that apply to scholarship players. - ESPN.com Big 12 Blog, Jake Trotter
This is the right way for the rule. If a school wants to keep a player, offer him a scholarship. If it can't or won't offer a scholarship, then the player should have the right to seek a school who can offer him a scholarship without losing a year of eligibility. If he is offered a scholarship and then decides to transfer, then losing a year of eligibility is the result.
Look out Mountaineer fans, Baker Mayfield now has two years left of terrorizing Big 12 teams. While the prospect of facing reigning Big 12 Player of the Year Baker Mayfield for two more years (2016 & 2017) is not enticing for Mountaineer fans, it is the right thing for the conference to do. If the NCAA wants to parade around as "student-athletes" then offering a way to pay for school should be a priority and students shouldn't be held hostage by one school.
This rule hasn't impacted the Mountaineers so far as head coach Dana Holgorsen has been very willing to allow players who aren't seeing playing time to transfer. He has also made an effort to offer walk-on players who have earned a scholarship. You might remember the name Justin Arndt. He was a preferred walk-on who earned his way to a scholarship last spring.
Going forward, it will be interesting to see how walk-on players choose schools. If a player feels he is good enough to play, will he transfer to another school now that the Big 12 has a rule that will allow him to keep a year of eligibility?