Rob Oller | Everyone wins thanks to college football's new transfer rules

Rob Oller
LSU quarterback Joe Burrow sidesteps Mississippi linebacker Jacquez Jones during the Tigers' 58-37 win on Nov. 16. [Thomas Graning/The Associated Press]

Joe Burrow is the 2015 blue-black or gold-white dress illusion of Ohio State football. Buckeye Nation's yanny or laurel.

As the Louisiana State quarterback posed for pictures with his Heisman Trophy on Saturday night in New York, OSU fans saw him in scarlet and gray or purple and gold. Many think they saw both.

Get the news delivered to your inbox: Sign up for our BuckeyeXtra newsletter

Burrow sounded like a Heisman winner from LSU, because that's what he is — the Tigers' second in school history. But some listeners heard a former Ohio State QB in there, too, because hordes of Buckeyes fans still claim the 23-year-old from Athens County as their own.

And why not? Burrow agonized over his decision to leave Ohio State in the spring of 2018 before landing in Baton Rouge as a graduate transfer. He has not burned bridges in Columbus and fairly earned his freedom by graduating in three years after finishing second to Dwayne Haskins in the competition to start the 2018 season.

So, yes, watching and listening to Burrow was something of an out-of-Buckeye experience, the sensation further amplified by the Ohio State sophomore who sat near him during the Heisman ceremony. Thousands of proud OSU fans pinched themselves on Saturday night, because not only did Burrow win but Justin Fields was in the running (though the race was more like Usain Bolt against the field, which also included Ohio State junior defensive end Chase Young and Oklahoma senior quarterback Jalen Hurts).

Think about it: Last year, Haskins earned an invitation to New York. This year, it was Fields and Burrow, a Buckeye by extension. That's some quarterback depth right there.

And to think that without updated transfer rules that have made eligibility immediate, and thus switching schools more attractive, none of this likely would have happened. No Burrow at LSU. No Fields at Ohio State. No Hurts at Oklahoma.

If Burrow was the biggest winner in Times Square, all college football players were runners-up, because looking at the four finalists, three were transfers who turned opportunity into excellence.

It turns out Burrow wasn't the only viral web dress in the bunch. Georgia fans had to see some red and black on Fields, who transferred from the Bulldogs to the Buckeyes in January. And Alabama fans certainly could not be faulted for finding some crimson and white among the crimson and cream of Oklahoma. Hurts spent three seasons at Alabama, two as the starting quarterback, before leaving for Oklahoma this season as a graduate transfer.

All three quarterbacks were able to play immediately at their new schools, thanks to woke action by NCAA policymakers. In earlier times, Fields likely either would still be stuck as a backup at Georgia or would have transferred and had to sit out a year. Hurts and Burrow might have turned pro rather than spend another lost season on the sidelines.

A lot of folks want to heckle the new transfer rules as college free agency, but without it the Heisman presentation would have looked much different.

Fields addressed the transfer issue earlier this season: “It's definitely a good thing,” he said. “Teams will be able to get new quarterbacks. Rather than having a bunch of quarterbacks on one team, they'll be able to spread out, and there will be better quarterback play around the country.”

Spot on. For coaches, stockpiling quarterbacks has become a challenge, as it should be. For quarterbacks, freedom of movement means more opportunity to shine on the big stage, like the one in NYC. For fans, claiming another team's Heisman winner as their own — Burrow's blood originally ran scarlet, after all — isn't such a bad thing.


Listen to the BuckeyeXtra Football podcast: