There's a soap opera airing in Norman, Oklahoma. The plot centers around four players who may or may not see the field for the Oklahoma Sooners this season.
Among those in question—the other three are receiver Dorial Green-Beckham, linebacker Frank Shannon and running back Joe Mixon—is quarterback Baker Mayfield, a Texas Tech transfer. According to his attorney, Jim Darnell, Mayfield is requesting a waiver that would allow him to play immediately, according to Brett McMurphy of ESPN.com.
Though Mayfield likely wouldn't have been the starter for the Sooners anyway—that title goes to Trevor Knight—he was impressive in OU's spring game, completing all nine of his passes for 125 yards and two touchdowns.
What are the odds of Mayfield, who played in eight games last year, being approved for immediate eligibility? According to John Infante of AthleticScholarships.net, the NCAA's Subcommittee for Legislative Relief would need a compelling reason to rule in Mayfield's favor.
"The guidelines for waivers when a previous school refuses to grant permission to contact or use of the onetime transfer exception is pretty clear: They are not to be granted," Infante said in an interview with B/R. "And 'the rule is bad' is not really grounds for a waiver."
One way that could change, per Infante, is if Mayfield's "family is able to present something more compelling than what's been publicly reported."
Mayfield, who left Tech after being named the Big 12 Offensive Freshman of the Year in 2013, has to sit out a year to satisfy NCAA transfer rules. But Mayfield's story has an added element of intrigue because he was a walk-on at Tech. In a January interview with Jake Trotter of ESPN.com, Mayfield said he was not in line to get a scholarship at Tech during the spring. That played a role in his decision to leave.
Red Raiders coach Kliff Kingsbury, when asked during Big 12 media days, said blocking Mayfield from receiving a grant-in-aid was "team policy. That’s it. The NCAA has the in-conference policy for a reason."
According to Infante, if Mayfield was in line to receive a scholarship, it would be less likely that his waiver request would be granted. He should receive a ruling one way or the other before Oklahoma's Aug. 30 opener against Louisiana Tech.
Immediate eligibility in transfer waivers is ruled with a degree of subjectivity, though it's likely to be eliminated soon. As a result, there can appear to be a lack of consistency in those rulings. Green-Beckham, for example, may be eligible this year because of what Dennis Dodd of CBSSports.com writes is a misapplication of the "run-off" rule, which allows players to transfer immediately "for reasons outside [their] control."
(The specifics of the rule can be found on Page 15 of this NCAA document.)
Green-Beckham has had his share of off-field issues, from a couple of pot busts to an incident in which he allegedly pushed a girl down "at least four stairs." Green-Beckham was not arrested related to the alleged assault.
Still, the run-off rule doesn't seem to apply to him. But Missouri coach Gary Pinkel has publicly supported Green-Beckham, even though the wide receiver was dismissed from the team. Without Mizzou's support, Green-Beckham's immediate eligibility isn't even a conversation.
Mayfield's waiver request appears far more black and white, and unlike Green-Beckham, he doesn't have the support of his former school. It would be surprising if Mayfield is ruled eligible to compete this season, barring something extraordinary coming to light.
Of course, the Sooners are the No. 3 team in the Amway coaches poll largely because of Knight and their defensive front seven. Mayfield doesn't really play a role in Oklahoma's playoff expectations. Mayfield created an interesting storyline by performing well in Oklahoma's spring game, but there's no pushing Knight for playing time if he doesn't get the approval from the NCAA.
That could change by this time next year. For now, the drama continues.
Ben Kercheval is a lead writer for college football. All quotes obtained firsthand unless noted otherwise.
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