Lincoln Riley Tries To Explain OU’s Initial Block Of Austin Kendall’s Transfer
The Sooner coach, who has benefited from transfers at the position to the tune of the two previous Heisman Trophy winners, and welcomes a third consecutive transfer this year in former Alabama signalcaller Jalen Hurts, offered a statement that seemed to contradict itself in in its first three sentences.
“I was always going to let him go to West Virginia. That was no issue. That’s part of these new rules is we can’t restrict them from going anywhere,” said Riley, apparently not taking into account the initial flap that occurred when he and Oklahoma tried to block Kendall’s transfer to the Mountaineer program. “My contention was I had a concern about a player being able to transfer and be immediately eligible the very next year in our league. I don’t think that’s healthy for the league.”
That may be, but like any other graduate transfer, Kendall was immediately eligible at any other school per NCAA rules, Riley’s personal objections notwithstanding. It also would seem to conflict with the fact that Oklahoma, after experiencing massive negative feedback from both traditional and social media, relented and halted its block. If Riley believed himself to be in the right, why not stick to his initial position?
Riley went on to offer a bit of confusing explanation, claiming that his personal relationship with the Kendalls led to his change of heart.
“In the end, I think my personal relationship with Austin and his family, the fact that he took a chance and came out to Oklahoma when I first got there, the fact that I was kind of with him every step of the way, I think the personal side of it overtook maybe more the business side of it from my head and my views on it haven’t changed. I still don’t really agree with it, but I realize in that moment I wanted to do the best thing for the kid and I couldn’t get past the personal side of it.”
Riley’s views were not reflected by at least one of his players.
“The transfer is the best thing that can happen for a lot of people,” Sooner wideout CeeDee Lamb said. “It can put guys in better situations than they were in already, and get them out of some bad situations. I think the transfer portal is very beneficial for us. Guys get the chance to fulfill their dreams.”
Even with that, Riley doubled down on his initial response to block Kendall’s transfer to West Virginia or another league school.
“I hope it’s something we keep looking at because I think we’ve got to protect our league on that and I think that’s something we’ve got to look out for each other on,” he said.
Judging from Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby’s comments on transfers, it doesn’t sound like there is much momentum for a league rule prohibiting such movement. While Bowlsby advocates having an undergraduate transfer sit out a year (he didn’t express his views specifically on graduate transfers, though he did note that the blocking tactics of college coaches have led to the current state of affairs).
“We wouldn’t be in this situation if we hadn’t had coaches that were saying, ‘Well you can transfer to this institution A, but you can’t go to B or C, and you can’t go to D,’ or they embargo it all together,” Bowlsby said of his thoughts on transfers in general. “So I think it probably was avoidable, but we are where we are now.”
The only difference between Hurts and Kendall is that the former came from another conference, which would seem to conflict with Riley’s statement that “we’ve got to look out for each other,” Somehow, that distinction seems mighty small, and certainly not one that in any way benefits the players. Riley was looking out for Oklahoma, which is understandable, but it’s hard to see how he was looking out for West Virginia in this case.