Welcome to the age of college athlete empowerment and passive-aggressive protest. Viva la transfer.
Or (bleep) these transfers, if that’s more how you look at it. And as of Thursday night, an increasing number of Ohio State fans likely look at it that way.
Why? Quarterback Matthew Baldwin has decided to enter the NCAA transfer portal, which means he’s leaving Ohio State sooner than later, as in the Buckeyes could be a Justin Fields badly sprained ankle, or worse, from relying on Chris Chugunov to win games in the fall.
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Nothing against Chug, a senior who earlier had transferred from West Virginia, but he does not give Buckeyes fans that warm, fuzzy feeling.
Baldwin reportedly wants to play closer to home in Texas, but here’s guessing Ohio would feel just like the Lone Star State if Fields had not left Georgia for OSU and become the Buckeyes’ leading candidate to start next season.
That’s right, Fields is a transfer, too. The sophomore spent last season backing up Bulldogs quarterback Jake Fromm. For those keeping score, in the past year the Buckeyes have seen Joe Burrow transfer to LSU, Chug transfer in, Fields transfer in, Tate Martell transfer to Miami and Baldwin put himself in position to transfer out.
Am I missing anyone? Oh, yes, Urban Meyer transferred to Fox. More on that in his memoirs.
It’s to where seething college football fans are wondering when the NCAA will Build That Wall. Not gonna happen. The Horseshoe has left the barn. Amateur athletes increasingly are gaining control of their destiny, and although the NCAA could try to put the genie back in the bottle, the genie’s lawyer would have something to say about it.
If there is anything that scares the NCAA — and college presidents and athletic directors — more than scandal, it is lawsuits with teeth, which explains why the old transfer rules have been redacted in favor of more legally affirming ones that allow athletes to transfer and gain instant eligibility for pretty much any reason their attorneys can lawyer up.
Fields left Georgia and was awarded immediate eligibility because a member of the Bulldogs baseball team yelled racial epithets at him during a Georgia football game. I get that. No one should have to suffer such abuse. As for Martell, who backed up Dwayne Haskins Jr. last season, he also was granted immediate eligibility to play for the Hurricanes. Why? Presumably because he wanted it.
The Buckeyes under Ryan Day are not expected to feature a run-heavy offense — even less so with Ohio State down to Fields and Chug as the only quarterbacks on scholarship — and Martell is a run-centric QB. But if “wrong fit” is the new measuring stick, then the transfer floodgates have been flung open. It used to be players had to sit out a year. Now? Flee and play.
Day reportedly plans to bring in a — wait for it — graduate transfer, so if Armageddon happens Ohio State at least will have an answer for it. Whether it’s a good answer remains to be seen. According to gradtransfertracker.com — more proof there is a website for everything — nine graduate transfer quarterbacks have already switched teams, with more to come.
Who might the Buckeyes target? One possibility is Penn State fifth-year senior Tommy Stevens, who reportedly entered the transfer portal Wednesday. But the triple-threat quarterback (he caught 14 passes for 62 yards and two touchdowns) has struggled to stay healthy in Happy Valley.
Day will find someone, because plenty of quarterbacks see how easy it is to gain instant eligibility. Coaches and fans may not like that QBs are unwilling to wait their turn — even when it appears to be the best option — but players increasingly hold the cards. And they know when to fold ’em.