Tate Martell, a transfer quarterback from The Ohio State University, will determine the future of college football.
Or at least his case will.
Stick with me here.
Martell, a rising red-shirt sophomore, announced on Jan. 15 that he was transferring to Miami from Ohio State, where he was the backup to Buckeye star Dwayne Haskins. Through his attorney, Martell has let it be known that he will apply for a waiver to the NCAA’s standard requirement that players who transfer from one FBS school to another must sit out a season before becoming eligible to play at their new school.
A player may get a waiver of that “residency” requirement and be eligible right away if one of two conditions is met:
1—The player has already received an undergraduate degree and still has eligibility remaining. These “graduate transfers” may enroll in the school of their choice and be eligible to play immediately.
2—The player is able to prove that: “The transfer is due to documented mitigating circumstances that are outside of the student-athlete’s control and directly impact the health, safety and well-being of the student athlete.”
Martell is applying for a waiver using condition two. If he gets it, then college football will be forever changed.
Let’s look at a few cases:
**--Former Ole Miss quarterback Shea Patterson was granted a waiver and allowed to play immediately at Michigan this season after a process that lasted several months. Patterson’s lawyer, Thomas Mars, originally claimed that Ole Miss had lied to players, like Patterson, about the seriousness of an NCAA investigation into the program. Ole Miss objected to that characterization. Eventually the NCAA modified its rules to the passage you see above. The two schools found language they could agree upon and the waiver was granted. Patterson was Michigan’s starting quarterback last season.
**--Justin Fields, one of the nation’s most highly-recruited players out of high school in 2018, saw limited action at Georgia this season and decided to transfer to Ohio State. He is seeking a waiver to play in 2019. According numerous published reports, that request is based on an incident that took place at a Georgia game on Sept. 29 where a spectator, who was also a member of the Georgia baseball team, hurled a racial slur at him. The University did an investigation and ultimately dismissed the person who used the slur. I expect the waiver to be granted. The topic is just too hot.
**--Wide receiver Bru McCoy, one of the nation’s most highly-recruited players, signed with USC on Dec. 19. One of the reasons McCoy signed with the Trojans was that he would get to play in the receiver-friendly offense of new OC Kliff Kingsbury, who joined the USC staff on Dec. 7. McCoy enrolled at USC for the winter semester and began attending classes.
Then on Jan. 8 Kingsbury left USC to become the head coach of the Arizona Cardinals. McCoy also left USC and enrolled at Texas. The rules say that because he attended class at USC, McCoy must sit out this season. He will apply for a waiver and should get it.
All three of those cases presented mitigating circumstances that, in my view, fall under the “well-being” portion of the transfer rule.
The Martell case, I believe, does not.
Martell had previously said at a Rose Bowl media day in December that he would be returning to Ohio State next season and would not leave because of the possible (at the time) transfer of Fields.
“Why would I leave for somebody (Fields) who hasn’t put a single second into this program yet?” he responded to a question.
Martell apparently had a change of heart when Fields made his official announcement to transfer.
He has enrolled at Miami and has requested a waiver to be eligible to play this season. The grounds?
Martell’s lawyer, Travis Leach, told The Miami Herald his client will cite the coaching change from Urban Meyer to offensive coordinator Ryan Day. Leach also told The Herald, however, that Martell’s case will go beyond that.
“There are a lot of things with (a coaching change) that impact the well-being of an athlete,” he told The Herald.
But unless there is a smoking gun that didn’t get reported in all of the Urban Meyer controversy last summer, giving Martell a waiver basically says players at any school that changes head coaches would be free to transfer and become immediately eligible.
I’m a big believer in relaxing transfer rules which, for so long, have been tilted heavily in favor of the schools. Shoot, I think any of the players who signed with Miami on Dec. 19, only to have Mark Richt suddenly retire as the head coach on Dec. 30, should be allowed to leave without penalty.
The NCAA Transfer Portal (gosh, I hate that word), has opened up a brave new world on this front. It’s a bit of the Wild, Wild West right now but it but it will settle down and make the whole process more transparent and (hopefully) fairer. That’s a good thing.
So unless you want complete free agency at any time for college football players, a line on the waivers must be drawn at some point.
Tate Martell had been in the Ohio State program for two years with Ryan Day as his offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. Day was named as Ohio State’s next head coach on Dec. 4.
“I’m not going anywhere. I’m staying right here,” Martell told reporters when Day was named head coach. “This is where I want to be. I’m going to play here.”
Actually, Martell is going to play at Miami and he’s going to be a very good quarterback for the Hurricanes of Manny Diaz. He’ll just have to do it in 2020.