Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley was asked again on Friday to elaborate on his stance against intraconference transfers — and once again, he didn’t hold back, although he acknowledged an “inner struggle” despite major concerns over tampering.
Riley has blocked an immediate eligibility waiver for freshman quarterback Chandler Morris, who left OU after one semester and entered the transfer portal with the intent to transfer to Big 12 Conference rival TCU.
Riley explained during a video press conference that there are tampering concerns at stake that have always been in play, but should be taken even more seriously when it’s regarding in-conference transfers.
Riley said on March 24 that he and OU leadership thought intraconference transfers were “unhealthy for college football." On Friday, Guerin Emig of the Tulsa World asked Riley to elaborate.
“What I would say about the whole thing is I went through this and we went through this with Austin Kendall (leaving for West Virginia) a few years ago,” Riley said. “Myself and most other college coaches, for years and years, have been against intraconference transfers. The difference is, right now in this climate, not a lot of people are willing to speak up on stuff like this. That’s just what it is.
“The reason I eventually I released Austin Kendall is because, at the end of the day, I should not be able to restrict somebody that earned their degree, that was a graduate. I didn’t like the fact that there was going to be a transfer in conference and be eligible. If a guy wants to transfer, anybody can transfer anywhere. I didn’t like that, but I felt at the end of the day, the guy got his degree.
“It’s no different than a coach. Ain’t no coaches getting hired that don’t have their degrees. If you’ve got your degree, if you’ve earned — part of this thing is ‘student-athlete’ — if you’ve done your part in the classroom and earned your degree, I think that should give you some rights that maybe some other people shouldn’t have. In my opinion. Again, it doesn’t mean you can’t go anywhere.”
The Big 12 Conference has rules on the books that don’t necessarily prevent transferring from one member school to another. But if that path is chosen, the player is ineligible to play in his first year of competition at the new school unless he receives a waiver from his original school. The player transferring also can’t receive athletic financial aid during that first year of competition unless he receives the waiver.
Tampering — when coaches from other schools (who may have previously recruited said player) actively contact and recruit the player again while he’s still at his first school — needs to be taken seriously, Riley said.
“Yeah, absolutely. I mean, tampering, No. 1, by a long ways,” Riley said. “And then I think the other thing, too, is it’s just going to encourage more and more transfers. And we’re already looking at a transfer portal saying there’s too many guys in the portal. There’s more transfer portal people in there than there are scholarships out there. And this will do nothing but increase it.
“I don’t think it’s good for leagues. I don’t think it’s healthy that you can recruit a player and then a few months later you’re competing against that player for three or four more times in their career. And vice versa. I don’t think it’s good for the college game. That’s my opinion. Now, if you’re a graduate? Again, to me totally different story.”
Riley also expressed he’s felt an inner conflict with taking an unpopular stance.
“Honestly, this one has been hard on me. Like Austin’s was,” he said. “Chandler Morris was in my room. I admittedly get closer to those quarterbacks than probably anybody on the team just because I’m with them every single day. The human side of me deep down? Hell yeah I wanna release Chandler. I mean, I do. The same way I wanted to release Austin Kendall. I got that inner battle of, ‘Do I do what the human side of me wants to do?’ Of course I want the kid to be able to play. Versus the side of me that believes that just going along with it is not good for our game. That’s the inner struggle that I’ve had with this.
“That’s where it stands. Again, we’ll see what happens with this, rules-wise. There’s a whole lot else that’s going to happen. I get that. I know some people agree with me, some people disagree with me. I’ve had more coaches than you can imagine hit me up and thank me for stepping out for it. Because a lot of people believe, again, guys can transfer anywhere they want. It’s not about us trying to restrict the ability to transfer. It’s trying to limit intraconference transfers. The tampering on that becomes — it’s already a major issue right now. Let’s just put it that way. It’s a major issue and everybody knows it.”
He further explained that tampering among conference membership is worse than it is from schools outside the conference — which stands to reason since many conference schools recruit the same players out of high school.
“It will absolutely make it worse,” Riley said. “It’s already bad that way. If we allow it intraconference, then it’s — right now, we have not proven that we have the ability to stop it, to enforce those rules. It’s not happening, or what we’re doing is not working. So my confidence in us being able to enforce it and fix it is very low right now.”