College Football's Unfair, Hypocritical Transfer Rules Are in Need of a Reboot

Adam KramerNational College Football Lead WriterFebruary 17, 2014

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Around this time each year, the maddening process of player transfers becomes a story. It becomes a story because a) there’s a fair amount of confusion on what is and isn’t feasible and b) conferences, programs and coaches tend to vary in how responsive they are in facilitating a player’s desire to leave.

At a time when player safety and other aspects of the game are being addressed, however, the absurdity of somehow blocking a “student-athlete” from attending another school should be addressed. 

We need continuity. We need to make the worst contract in all of sports slightly more tolerable. And we need to address the enormous elephant sitting quietly in the room, that the same individuals blocking these decisions will gladly shop themselves around for a new job or salary bump—free of all penalties—whenever they get the chance.

The latest in a long list of player transfers to feel the wrath of this brick scholarship wall is soon-to-be ex-Texas Tech quarterback Michael Brewer.

Brewer joined fellow quarterback Baker Mayfield, becoming the second Texas Tech QB to leave this offseason. Like Mayfield, Brewer is now navigating the minefield of leaving a program without his ideal options in play.

Originally looking at transferring to either Texas or TCU, Brewer appealed the university’s decision to block him from leaving for a football program within the Big 12. His appeal was denied, and he expressed his frustration over the process to the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal:

“There were two graduate programs — one at Texas, one at TCU — that best suited my future as far as receiving a master’s degree goes. And we also felt like whenever I was done playing football and done with college that being in Austin with the connections I have with my family and being in the Dallas-Fort Worth area with the connections I have with my family up there, that would be best suited for me as far as getting a job and all that.”

Football certainly plays a role, so let's not completely rid ourselves of this. While his reasoning for wanting to be at Texas and TCU is genuine—leaning on both family and academics—these are two schools with questions at the quarterback position. It all factors into the decision, although at this point his reasons for wanting to attend a particular school are moot.

He could still make such moves, although it would come at the steep price of one year of eligibility and tuition. Brewer told the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal that he plans to give up this fight and instead look at a few schools in the ACC and SEC. He’ll be immediately eligible to play with his graduation set for May.

When Texas Tech was pressed on Brewer’s situation, university spokesman Blayne Beal provided the following:

“The only stipulations put on Michael were he couldn’t transfer anywhere in the Big 12. He was not allowed to transfer anywhere in the Big 12 Conference, but we are allowing Michael to transfer anywhere in the state of Texas not in the Big 12, something coach Kingsbury does not normally allow. But in this case, he is allowing it.”


Thanks for allowing a college athlete to look at schools in an enormous state ripe with programs; that’s mighty kind. If I didn’t know any better, I get the sense you’re attempting to sell such “non-normal” rulings as a positive in this specific instance.

While we’re on the topic of such special treatment, why don’t you normally allow players to transfer within the state of Texas? Is it paranoia? Personal? Or maybe it’s the false perception of some sort of competitive disadvantage?

The idea that Brewer is actually being treated better than other transfer hopefuls is as preposterous as the process to leave a program you no longer want to be at. And the fact that Texas Tech used a five-member panel of the Tech Athletics Council to deny Brewer’s appeal also provides a window into how unnecessarily complex and flawed this entire process is.

Michael Thomas/Associated Press

How many people does it take to dictate where a young person can play football? As many as possible, I suppose.

The Big 12 also gave us last year’s high-profile transfer case, and it also centered around a quarterback. Wes Lunt wanted out of Oklahoma State, but the Cowboys went above and beyond simply limiting him to teams outside the conference. At least at first.

Head coach Mike Gundy eventually eliminated restrictions after the backlash went viral, but not before the list of teams reportedly hit a reported 37 in all. It included the Big 12, Pac-12, SEC and even Southern Miss, the home of former Pokes’ OC Todd Monken. Lunt, even after the restrictions were removed, later decided on Illinois.

As has now become the process, the Big 12 has more or less backed a team’s willingness to have control over where and when a transfer student will play. It leans on NCAA legislation, although it basically leaves this decision—as long as they operate within bylaws—up to the school.

Bylaw 6.3.1 in the Big 12 Conference Handbook states the following:

A 4-2-4 transfer student-athlete who is in compliance with NCAA Bylaw 14.5.6 must complete one full academic year in residence before being eligible to compete in a sport and forfeit one season of competition unless, in sports other than football or basketball, the director of athletics of the Conference Member Institution of initial enrollment consents in writing to the student-athlete’s enrollment at the second Conference Member Institution. Any consent given relating to the indirect intraconference transfer may be unconditional or conditioned on the student-athlete completing one full academic year in residence at the second conference Member Institution before competing.

If coaches are really about the student-athlete—and they regularly preach from living rooms to mountain tops that they are—then why make a simple transition this difficult?

The same “young men” and “I’m all about the student-athlete” sound bites surface when it’s convenient. When the tables turn, so does the tone. The reality of the situation is that programs are about their student-athlete. Once they are no longer theirs, this philosophy morphs into a very ugly, convoluted bit of competitive concern.

And it's not just the coaches. It's a philosophy that is shared by everyone in the process. Well, everyone but the student-athlete.

What is the real danger in allowing Michael Brewer to transfer to Texas? What does it matter if Wes Lunt were to play for an offensive coordinator that he felt comfortable with?

The reality of these situations offer up far more bark than bite. The impact of such moves would be minimal.

And while the players are stuck, hoping their soon-to-be former coach is more lenient on them, that same coach has likely shopped his coaching stock in the past year or might be thinking about doing it soon. Being content is a lost art form in the coaching profession.

Tony Gutierrez/Associated Press

This is the current state of college football, a state that has watched 70 of the 124 FBS jobs change within the last three years. There’s no need to outline the blatant hypocrisy-laced world that coaches operate in. You're well aware of this already.

As professionals they are free to leave when they please, and a contract is only as good as the buyout attached to it. And if they decide to leave, the players that they leave behind will have to jump through incredible hoops to find a coach or campus that suits them—if that’s the route they decide to take.

Depending on the conference, year, school and understanding of a particular head coach, completing this process will vary. And thus, it needs some transparency. It needs more leniency for the players who really are put in an impossible spot. It needs consistency across the nation that allows players some flexibility in changing area codes.

They can leave without a university's blessing—choosing to take on the anchor that comes with it—but why does it have to be this complicated? What good does it actually do the player and the former school?

Let’s start by asking ourselves if this rigid policy is what's best for the “student-athlete,” a term that is conveniently lost at times for the hierarchy of college football.