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  • Oklahoma has tainted its own celebration of winning the Jalen Hurts sweepstakes with its simultaneous handling of another QB's transfer situation.
By Laken Litman
January 16, 2019

UPDATE: Oklahoma has reportedly granted quarterback Austin Kendall the right to transfer to West Virginia as a graduate student and be immediately eligible to play during the 2019 season. 

On the same day Jalen Hurts announced that he will pursue his final year of eligibility at Oklahoma and be Lincoln Riley’s next great transfer quarterback project following the impressive starting careers of Baker Mayfield and Kyler Murray, news broke that the Sooners are simultaneously blocking the quarterback they don’t plan to start from leaving the program.

Austin Kendall entered the transfer portal on Friday after reportedly learning that Oklahoma was pursuing Hurts. Kendall backed up Mayfield in 2016, redshirted in 2017 and then backed up Murray last season. He understood that he wasn’t going to be the starter next fall—not with Hurts and five-star pro-style quarterback Spencer Rattler signing with OU’s 2019 recruiting class—so he took his future into his own hands and entered the portal. The new NCAA database allows players to freely talk to other programs without permission from their current coach.

It makes sense for Kendall, who graduated in the fall and has two years of eligibility remaining, to look around if Oklahoma is too. He wants to go to West Virginia as a graduate transfer, according to ESPN, and the Mountaineers are looking to replace two-year starter Will Grier. Kendall, who is from Charlotte, N.C., was recruited by new West Virginia head coach Neal Brown in high school and would compete for the job. At Oklahoma, his future appears predetermined.

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While the NCAA has created the transfer portal, NCAA rules also give Oklahoma the power to prevent Kendall from transferring to a school in the same conference and becoming immediately eligible for the 2019 season, even though he has his degree.

If that sounds wrong, that’s because it is. Kendall could still go to West Virginia if he wants, but he would have to sit out a season and forgo one year of eligibility. It’s understandable that a coach wouldn’t want to face a former player for the next season or two. But Riley wasn’t going to start Kendall anyway.

Not to mention Oklahoma has arguably profited more from transfers than any school in recent years. Mayfield transferred after walking on at Big 12 foe Texas Tech; Murray came from Texas A&M. Both quarterbacks won the Heisman Trophy and led their teams to the College Football Playoff. Riley should know better, especially since Kliff Kingsbury tried to pull a similar stunt with Mayfield after he left Lubbock for Norman. By the time Tech gave in, it was too late to put the future No. 1 draft pick immediately on scholarship.

That’s the transfer rules for walk-ons that was retroactively applied to Mayfield. The SEC used to make players apply for a waiver if they wanted to transfer to a school in the same conference, but last summer, the league passed a new rule that allows graduate students to transfer within the conference and become immediately eligible. The Big 12 has no such rule, but should to avoid these sticky situations that make the school doing the blocking come off as disingenuous.

Even though Oklahoma eventually acquiesced to Kendall’s request, allowing him to play immediately at his school of choice regardless of the conference, the optics of holding out long enough to raise a public outcry are terrible. This never should have been a discussion in the first place. Kendall earned his degree from OU and has two more years of football to play. He should be allowed to go wherever he wants.

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