Transfers aren't always a clean break. Just ask Texas Tech head coach Kliff Kingsbury, who has had a pair of ugly departures in the past two months.
Freshman walk-on quarterback Baker Mayfield, who started seven games last season, announced he was transferring in December. One month later, redshirt sophomore Michael Brewer also announced he was leaving the program after he graduates in May.
The departures leave the Red Raiders in a bind. The depth chart now consists of Davis Webb—and that's pretty much it. Three-star quarterback Patrick Mahomes will enroll later this year and likely slide into the backup spot.
But the departures of Brewer and Mayfield are more than just blows to the depth chart. Both quarterbacks made less-than-flattering comments about Tech and Kingsbury on their way out.
In an interview with Don Williams of The Lubbock Avalanche-Journal, Brewer dished on the reasons he decided to leave Lubbock. There are a few layers to Brewer's comments, so it's best to break them down individually.
First, Brewer said his preseason back injury was misdiagnosed by Tech as a bulging disc. An independent back specialist later diagnosed it as a stress fracture, according to Brewer.
"I was diagnosed in June misdiagnosed, actually—which set me back even further," Brewer told Williams. "They let me start to practice the beginning of two-a-days when I wasn’t supposed to, which set me back again. It was just small things like that which continually set me back."
Tech countered with a statement to the Avalanche-Journal.
The well-being of our student-athletes is something we take very seriously, and we would never jeopardize the health of of any student-athlete. Within a month of Michael’s injury, Texas Tech sent him to a specialist, and he was under the care of that specialist from that point forward until his release.
The alleged misdiagnosing of Brewer's back is the most intriguing aspect of his story because it's the most complicated part. Brewer claims the prognosis for the injury was supposed to be two months, but ended up being around four months. Brewer made his first appearance of the 2013 season on Oct. 5 against Kansas.
Perhaps, Brewer's injury affected another allegation: miscommunication over playing time.
"I’d been told the whole time leading up to that [Oct. 5] that I was going to play," Brewer told Williams. "Then coach Kingsbury had gone back and forth, telling me I was going to play. Coach Kingsbury told me I was going to start for the Texas game, and then two days later called me back and told me that I’m not."
Mayfield had expressed a similar complaint to Mike Berman from YNN Austin in December. Mayfield later told Jake Trotter of ESPN.com that it was a "lack of communication" with Kingsbury, not a "miscommunication," that influenced his decision to transfer.
Either way, Brewer and Mayfield have a common story. No one seemed to know what was going on with the quarterback situation. It's possible Kingsbury was uncertain himself. Brewer, Mayfield and Webb all had promising moments on the field at one point or another.
Still, communication appears to be an issue.
There also appears to be some confusion by Brewer about transferring. On Thursday, Tech released a statement denying Brewer's appeal to transfer without penalty to either TCU or Texas, two schools he wanted to attend for a graduate program. Brewer said Tech blocked him from playing anywhere in the Big 12 and the state of Texas.
On Friday, Brewer tweeted out the following letter from Tech confirming those restrictions.
However, a statement from the university, also released on Friday, clarified that Brewer was initially blocked from transferring to other in-state Division 1 FBS programs. Those restrictions were later lifted, though Tech did not say when.
The letter in question was dated January 21. Texas Tech has subsequently changed its stance regarding the limitation of the one-time transfer rule and permission to contact and is allowing Michael to transfer to any school he chooses outside of the Big 12 Conference, including any non-Big 12 institution in Texas, to allow him to pursue his football and academic interests. This has been communicated to him by Texas Tech officials.
NCAA transfer rules are hypocritical when coaches can come and go whenever and to wherever they please. That said, it's ultimately up to the school to determine which programs it will "block" a player from transferring to without penalty. There's almost always some variation from case to case, but the norm is that a player won't be allowed to immediately receive a grant-in-aid to another conference institution or any future opponent on the schedule.
Brewer said he wanted to go to either Texas or TCU for graduate programs that "best suited [his] future." Technically, nothing is preventing Brewer from attending either school.
Mayfield, for example, wanted to go to Oklahoma. He was denied transfer without restriction, of course, but he walked on and will be eligible to play in 2015 as a junior. It was a head-scratching decision from the outside looking in. Mayfield will forfeit a year of eligibility and initially have to pay his own way, but he ultimately went where he wanted.
It's not wrong for Brewer to want the best of both worlds: to play football on scholarship and attend the graduate program of his choice. Being denied that chance can't come as a surprise, however. As David Ubben of Fox Sports Southwest tweets, TCU and Texas also have quarterback needs. There's a football angle here and Tech saw the forest for the trees.
It goes to show that messy departures usually aren't cut-and-dry. It's rarely one side's fault entirely. There were several factors that played into the decisions by Brewer and Mayfield to transfer.
What guys like Brewer and Mayfiled have, however, is an unfiltered platform to speak. That's something the universities don't have. While a school will release a carefully crafted statement, a player is free to say whatever he wants.
That doesn't mean Brewer or Mayfield are lying or otherwise bending the truth; far from it, in fact. The overlapping of some of their accusations show there's likely some merit to them.
But their comments have painted an unflattering picture of Kingsbury and Texas Tech. You can bet the university and Kingsbury will keep these last two months in mind when dealing with future cases.
Ben Kercheval is the lead writer for Big 12 football. All quotes obtained firsthand unless noted otherwise.