Oregon is adding a contender for its post-Marcus Mariota quarterback job, bringing in Eastern Washington star Vernon Adams, the one who averaged 443 yards passing against the Pac-12 North's Oregon State and Washington.
EWU, which loses one of the best players in school history, is unhappy. Specifically, EWU doesn't like that Adams will take advantage of the NCAA's graduate transfer rule, which allows a player with a degree to change schools without facing the usual penalty: sitting out a year.
The school's athletic director and head football coach have complained publicly about the move. Here's why they should drop it.
1. This rule applies to everybody.
This is not a rule that allows FCS players to jump to FBS without penalty. This is a rule that allows graduated college students to transfer to other colleges without athletic penalty. Student-athletes using it to better their athletic circumstances doesn't illegitimize the rule.
Russell Wilson used the rule to transfer from NC State to Wisconsin. If Braxton Miller were to leave Ohio State's crowded depth chart, he'd do the same.
It's not a new rule. Oregon didn't exploit loopholes. If anything, EWU should feel complimented Oregon treated EWU exactly as it would an FBS program with a graduate quarterback who wanted to leave.
"The chance for him to pursue this opportunity is certainly a unique one given the fifth-year transfer rule," said EWU AD Bill Chaves in a statement. "We are not sure that this was the actual intent of the legislation when it was approved, but it is the rule currently in place that we and potentially other schools have to adhere to."
The intent of the legislation is for graduates to be able to transfer. There are lots of NCAA transfer regulations. One that EWU has used recently is the drop-down-a-level-without-penalty rule, which gained EWU a lineman from Washington State [and as is being noted in the comments, the Ducks have sent their share of talent to FCS].
And that's the issue. Schools like EWU don't like the impression of the Adams move, that EWU is a level below schools like Oregon. That can't be helped. EWU is a level below. It's an excellent program that has beaten top-level programs, but it's not a top-level program.
"We cannot be perceived as a farm system or Triple-A ballclub," conference rival Montana State's coach Rob Ash said.
Good enough for the Pac-12?
Good enough for the Pac-12?
2. This rule is great.
When a player signs a National Letter of Intent, he or she is stuck with one of the most restricting contracts in sports. Players can't leave without sitting out a season. They can't renegotiate. There's nothing to even negotiate.
Giving agency to a player as a reward for graduating is one of the few things the NCAA does to promote good academic standing, rather than only punish bad standing.
Think about it like grad school. Many people attend grad school somewhere besides their undergrad alma maters. A player who gives four seasons, counting a redshirt, to his first college has fulfilled his recruiter's basic reasonable expectations. That was his football undergrad.
3. EWU does not own Vernon Adams.
"We got a guy we recruited when no one else was. We were the ones who developed him from a level out of high school, when he wasn't at that level," EWU head coach Beau Baldwin said on ESPN Radio. "When you are Oregon, and over the last three or four years, you're not recruiting a number of guys that can fill in when Marcus leaves, I'm flattered I guess, but what are we doing over there? I don't see Urban Meyer going to Northern Iowa for his next guy."
Part of this is true. EWU recruited and developed Adams. (The part about Oregon not having other quarterbacks isn't, as Adams has chosen to join a competition rather than keep his starting job.)
In exchange, the Eagles got a quarterback who led them to five FCS playoff wins. Are we to believe all of that development was an investment in his fifth season? Or did EWU benefit from it for years before Adams left for a school with better resources, exposure and competition?
Did Central Washington put any development work into Baldwin when he was its quarterbacks coach before he left for a better job at EWU?
If every school should have "two or three guys loaded up and ready to go" in the event of a QB change, as Baldwin advises Oregon, shouldn't EWU be good to go anyway?
If Adams had left for the NFL instead of for Oregon, a school on EWU's 2015 schedule, would EWU's head coach complain about it on the radio? Or would he talk up Adams' pro chances, especially when around local quarterback recruits? (By the way, "Come to EWU, win playoff games, beat Pac-12 teams, get your degree and replace a Heisman winner," is an awesome recruiting pitch.)
EWU admins are upset about the graduate transfer rule for one reason: it made the 2015 season harder for EWU admins. That's not Oregon's problem, and that's not Vernon Adams' problem.