The transfer of former Oklahoma quarterback Chandler Morris to TCU is quickly becoming a saga. That's good for absolutely no one. Speaking with reporters this week, TCU coach Gary Patterson said that Morris, who transferred to the Frogs from the Sooners in January, still hasn't been released. As such, his eligibility for 2021 is in question.
"We don't know yet on Chandler, it looks like rules are going to change here real quickly," Patterson said via 247Sports. "He still hasn't been released by Oklahoma."
Asked for a response, Sooners coach Lincoln Riley defended his position by taking the same route as coaches before him: it's allowed within the conference rules and a core program philosophy to preserve the integrity of the game.
"This particular situation for us is about something that we believe in. Myself, the leadership here at OU, we think it's unhealthy for college football to encourage intra-conference transfers," he said in response to a question from Jason Kersey of The Athletic. "That doesn't mean we are against transfers to any other institutions they want. That rule obviously has been changed, and I think it was a good rule to change. And now players have the ability and freedom as they should to be able to go to any school they want. But I do think the intraconference can complicate things. Coaches understand the big picture, and that's going to bring along a lot of negatives that we don't want in this game. That's been something we've been adamantly opposed to for a long time."
You can see Riley's full response below:
Critics of college athletic's current power imbalance will point to a few examples intended to make Riley look like a hypocrite. Most notably -- benefitting from former Sooners coach Bob Stoops enlisting the services of Baker Mayfield from Texas Tech while Riley served as offensive coordinator. The devil's in the details, though. Mayfield was neither a scholarship athlete at the time, nor immediately eligible when he transferred in 2014, before Riley's arrival; in fact, he retroactively gained a year of eligibility later on in his career.
Riley did, however, bring aboard Kyler Murray from Texas A&M. But, again, Murray sat out a season. Riley was also notably defiant about Austin Kendall's immediate eligibility when he transferred to West Virginia two years ago. Quickly, though, Oklahoma saw the PR nightmare knocking at the door and granted Kendall, a graduate transfer, his wish.
Morris' situation doesn't compare perfectly to Mayfield's, Murray's or Kendall's, but it's a general example that just because a coach can do something according to the bylaws doesn't mean he should be in a position to. Morris, who completed three passes for 39 yards in 2020, isn't beating out Spencer Rattler for the starting job. Based on Patterson's own assessment of TCU's QB situation heading into 2021, it doesn't sound like Morris is an immediate threat to Max Duggan's job, either.
"He's our guy right now," Patterson said of Duggan. "Outside of popular belief, everybody told me that Trevon Boykin wasn't very good, that's what I heard all the time. That was through his sophomore year. We're pretty excited. I think he squatted 630 pounds the other day. For a quarterback, that's not bad. We've got a chance."
If anything, you could point to Oklahoma hiring offensive line coach Bill Bedenbaugh and defensive line coach Calvin Thibodeaux, who came from West Virginia and Kansas, respectively, as the double standard. Coaches and players abide by different rules, but again, the question is whether the restrictions on athlete mobility at the conference level should be there in the first place. After all, the normally uptight NCAA has relaxed some of its broader transfer restrictions in recent years.
The ACC is a perfect example when it announced earlier in this month that it was eliminating its intraconference transfer rule, paving the way for players to move within the league without having to sit out for a full season. On that front, it's probably ahead of the curve of other Power Five conferences.
Riley is within his right to make sure Morris sits a season. But even though most of the power still lies with the institutions, athlete voices are louder than ever. Refusing to release a player can be -- and often is -- met with P.R. backlash. And the school and/or coach almost always looks bad in the process. There's also the matter of how much immediate eligibility actually harms the sport. Tampering would be a concern, but to what degree is the Big 12 actually able to clamp down?
In the long run, the Big 12 may be better served to join likes of the ACC and can the rule for good. The teeth gnashing and outcry on both sides aren't worth it most of the time anyway.