The frustration is understandable. But knowing the rules might soften the blow a bit.
With the recent announcement of multi-talented quarterback Vernon Adams opting to transfer from Eastern Washington University to the University of Oregon in order to play his final season of college football at the highest level, quite a few people are up in arms.
Well, those with connections to the FCS level certainly are.
Fearing that their version of Division I is being used as a testing ground, or even a minor league for the major programs out there that rake in millions and receive all the television coverage, FCS coaches in particular are complaining that something is amiss, and we’re not talking just EWU’s Beau Baldwin, but rivals such as Montana State’s Rob Ash.
Their beef is that the NCAA rulebook is allowing Adams to leave EWU and immediately step behind center in Ducks attire, with no “sitting out” period. Furthermore, they claim that this wouldn’t happen if Adams were transferring from one FBS school to another.
That, however, is where their argument falls flat. Yes, typically, transfers have to spend a year at their new school before being eligible to play. However, if an athlete is graduating from one school, has eligibility remaining and transfers to another school that offers a graduate program not offered at his or her current school, then he or she can do so and continue athletic endeavors with no forced break.
The level of competition – FBS, FCS, Division II, Division III – does not matter … at all.
This is the option that Adams is utilizing, and it is available to all athletes in the same position. He is, in fact, finishing up his degree at EWU.
Frankly, this has become common practice at the Division I level, as athletes may have completed their academic work at one school but have yet to exhaust their athletic eligibility – and want to do so.
Thing is, why shouldn’t a youngster get that opportunity, wherever he or she wants?
Normally we applaud athletics for staying in school, for getting their education. Here we are, in this scenario, with athletes not only looking to extend their activities on the collegiate field or court, but opting to get going with graduate school as well … and the system is being knocked for allowing it.
It doesn’t compute.
Baldwin and Ash, their emotions are understandable, with the former losing a great player and the latter having coached against him and seeing this move as a slap in the face to the Big Sky Conference, to which both EWU and Montana State belong.
But their views are skewed.
Consider this: Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, one of the better known players in the NFL, was drafted out of Wisconsin in 2012 after leading the Badgers to the Big Ten title and Rose Bowl berth in 2011 – his one and only season in Madison, Wis. Prior to that, he spent four years at fellow FBS school North Carolina State, graduated, and transferred to Wisconsin, where he could use his final season of athletic eligibility and further his education.
The reality is, there is no conspiracy against FCS football schools with this rule. A young man made his choice to move on.
Perhaps it is time the bad vibes from those feeling left behind did the same.
- Jack Kerwin is Director of Communications for the United States Sports Academy. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.