No, the Tate Martell waiver appeal isn't the advent of college free agency, but it's huge for Miami
The Canes are becoming Transfer U, but while their latest addition will be impactful, he's not historic
It seems overreactions have abounded since Miami quarterback Tate Martell won his transfer waiver appeal Tuesday and became immediately eligible. The claim is that Martell's sudden availability next season swings the door was now wide open to college football free agency.
If Martell was able to get a waiver, anyone can, too.
Seldom has so much been made of a backup quarterback with 28 career passes. But that's the world we live in.
"I didn't like the fact that somehow Tate was becoming the poster boy for supposedly bringing in free agency to college football because (a) he's not, and (b) people don't understand what the details were of all of these cases. They're all different," Miami coach Manny Diaz told CBS Sports.
After a year or so of highly publicized quarterback transfers, Martell's immediate eligibility certainly was surprising. But it didn't create an open market for college talent.
Sources confirmed to CBS Sports that the rationale for Martell's waiver appeal to the NCAA was that Ohio State changed its coaching staff and new coach Ryan Day had no place for Martell on the roster.
"He was essentially run off and there is a different sense of analysis under the NCAA rules for that," said Travis Leach, Martell's attorney.
Leach quickly caught himself. He sensed the gravity of the term "run off." Martell is already projected as Miami's starting quarterback by those close to the program. Ohio State did not oppose his transfer.
If such (seemingly) frivolous reasoning as a coaching change can be grounds for immediate eligibility, should we get ready for the floodgates to open?
"If you've got institutions that don't oppose the transfer then why should the NCAA stand in front of it so it can't happen?" Leach said. "To me the best interest of the organization is to develop their student-athletes."
Diaz has as good a rebuttal as there has been to the sky-is-falling crowd. The U has become "Transfer U" thanks to Diaz, who bolstered his first recruiting class with eight impact transfers.
Martell may make the biggest splash. He's certainly made the most news.
"We were just trying to create any type of buzz," Diaz said of his transfer philosophy. "Our recruiting wasn't in a great spot. More than anything, we think we helped the team, which is really kind of the whole key."
Martell joins a quarterback depth chart that could use some upgrading. Miami was 12th in the ACC in passing offense and second-to-last in completion percentage. Redshirt sophomore QB N'Kosi Perry barely completed half his passes last season.
"What drew us to Tate is he's highly competitive," Diaz said. "He's the type of kid who sort of attracts a crowd, that pack-leader type of mentality, a football gym rat. We felt like we had talented quarterbacks but those are qualities we didn't feel like we had at least in abundance in our quarterback room."
Two years ago, Martell was the No. 2 dual threat quarterback in the country behind someone named Tua Tagovailoa. Martell's "mistake" may have been picking Ohio State where he played behind Heisman Trophy finalist Dwayne Haskins and was destined to see Georgia transfer Justin Fields jump in front of him in 2019.
Fields himself won a waiver appeal. It was speculated but never confirmed that Fields used as the basis of his appeal an incident in which a racial slur was directed his way by a Georgia baseball player.
"If Justin wants to come [to Ohio State], by all means come," Martell said after the Rose Bowl while still with the Buckeyes. "I'm just telling him it's not as easily as it sounds because, I mean, the offense is just really difficult to pick up."
Two weeks later, Martell transferred to Miami.
No matter his legacy, the new kid in town isn't shy.
Nobody said this was an exact science. In the space of less than three weeks, Diaz went from Miami defensive coordinator to Temple coach to Miami coach after Mark Richt retired. Total time on the job at Temple: 18 days.
Diaz missed the early signing period at Miami while landing his class at Temple. Six of the eight transfers came after Diaz had returned to Coral Gables, Florida.
"It was a unique circumstance," he said. "We had a lot of scholarships left to give, and we had a very young team. It just kind of fit us this year. You also had to put it in context of what was out there in the high school market. That [cupboard] had kind of been picked clean because of the early signing day."
A lot has happened in the last year to get us to a discussion of free agency. It was about a year ago when Ole Miss, Michigan and the NCAA were going back and forth over quarterback Shea Patterson's waiver request.
What in the past had been banal paper shuffling became a national story. Michigan needed a quarterback. Patterson's value shot through the roof for Jim Harbaugh, who'd had trouble landing a difference maker for the Wolverines at that position.
Patterson disparaged Ole Miss. His transfer process not only made national news, it changed the recruiting model.
Patterson's now-famous lawyer Tom Mars became become one of the most powerful persons in college athletics because of his legal background, influence and smarts.
"I really don't see how people can criticize this or any other waiver decision when they have no idea what evidence formed the basis for the NCAA's decision," Mars said of Martell's waiver. "The student privacy requirements of federal law don't allow the NCAA to publicly justify its decision to grant Tate Martell or any other student-athlete a waiver. There's no reason the NCAA should try to do that.
"The fact that a college student is a high-profile quarterback doesn't entitle everyone with a Twitter account or press credential to know every little detail about that student's college experience."
Except we've entered a different age. Those high-profile transfers with the means and legal representation can get creative. In August 2018, Martell was in the process of transferring while. At the time, he did not follow through on the transfer request.
In April, the NCAA changed its rules allowing players to put their name in a transfer portal. Neither their coach nor school could block them from their next destination. At last check, more than 400 players had entered the transfer portal as tracked by 247Sports.
"I think this is where it's going," Diaz said of the transfer portal. "We have to do whatever we can to help the kids. To me, if the kid wanted to transfer [and] the school would say, 'No,' there would be a big media backlash. Eventually the school relented. All we've really done is really unbuckled that process."
The new rule went into effect on Oct. 15, 2018. The NCAA's one-time transfer exception stayed in place as did the required year in residence (sitting out).
That was the rule Martell was appealing. The NCAA says "mitigating" circumstances can allow a transferring player to be eligible immediately. Martell had already used a redshirt year at Ohio State as a freshman. It could be, in approving his appeal, the NCAA Committee for Legislative Relief considered Martell would have lost a year of eligibility if he sat out another season.
We'll likely never know.
To consider Martell's waiver approval as this the advent of college free agency is a stretch. It should be noted that the NCAA Transfer Working Group urged the association in February to actually tighten waiver guidelines. The working group thought they had become too liberal.
"That's why I was trying to push back on the narrative that Tate is changing the face of college football," Diaz said. "No. 1, even if was changing things, it's unfair for one kid to be labeled. Second, it just wasn't the case."
Working against the free agency argument: Waiver appeal approvals in FBS football have essentially stayed the same. Two-thirds of the football appeals were approved in the 2014-15 academic year. Four years later, that figure was 65 percent. In all sports, appeal waivers actually declined from 72 percent to 66 percent.
"No one should need to go through a months-long process and beg for a special exception for something that is provided everywhere else," said athlete advocate attorney Tim Nevius. "Any suggestion that this amounts to free agency is fear mongering by those who want to repress athlete rights for their own benefit."
It just appeared that way as Diaz began to shape the Hurricanes his way with the help of what looks like college football's waiver wire.
Martell is the eighth player to transfer to Miami since the second week of December.
USC redshirt sophomore safety Bubba Bolden said in October he was removed from the roster for violating "the student code of conduct." He was reinstated by USC in December only to transfer to Miami in early January. Bolden played in high school with Martell and current Miami tight end Brevin Jordan at national power Las Vegas Gorman.
Virginia Tech defensive end Trevon Hill came to Miami as a graduate transfer after being dismissed in September for what was described as a heated exchange with a staff member.
Butler offensive tackle Tommy Kennedy (6-foot-5, 290 pounds) is projected as an immediate starter as a graduate transfer.
Auburn running back Asa Martin transferred after his redshirt was reportedly burned by mistake in 2018 when the Tigers accidentally played him in a fifth game as a freshman. New NCAA rules allowed players to preserve a year of eligibility if they appear in a maximum of four games.
Graduate transfers Chigozie Nnoruka (from UCLA) and KJ Osborn (from Buffalo) could also make an immediate impact. Osborn caught 53 passes for 892 yards last season.
247Sports No. 1 overall recruit in 2017, linebacker Jaelan Phillips transferred after two years at UCLA.
For now, it's all about the Transfer U.
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