LAS COLINAS, Texas — Everyone probably should have learned way back in September not to count out Baker Mayfield.
Back when Mayfield was slithering around Neyland Stadium and leading the Oklahoma Sooners to an impossible rally and an improbable victory, it became evident then that the irrepressible Mayfield could not be held back.
Mayfield staged another dramatic comeback on Thursday night at the Four Seasons Hotel and Resort when the Big 12 Conference faculty athletic representatives heard an amended rule proposal and changed course from 24 hours earlier, allowing walk-ons to transfer in the league without losing a year of eligibility.
The rule passed by a vote of 7-3, and it is retroactive to include Mayfield’s 2014 transfer from Texas Tech to OU.
“He’ll get back the year he lost,” Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby said.
That means Mayfield — a junior who finished fourth in the Heisman Trophy balloting last season — will be eligible to play as a fifth-year senior in 2017.
“I obviously am pleased by their decision,” OU president and chairman of the Big 12 board of directors David Boren said. “I think it’s not only fair in this individual case, but I think it’s fair to all student-athletes.”
Big 12 faculty athletic reps simply changed their minds after the original proposal was amended.
The new rule states that if the student-athlete’s original school doesn’t present a written scholarship offer, then that student-athlete can transfer without penalty. The transferring student-athlete still must sit out a year per NCAA and Big 12 rules, but the Big 12 no longer applies an additional year’s loss of eligibility.
“That may seem like a fine distinction, but given the national letters of intent and the process by which aid is awarded, having a written offer of aid is a significant nuance to the previous proposal,” Bowlsby said. “It has to be offered by the end of the school year or the period of the award, and then if the student-athlete leaves after having had that offer of aid, they know they move with the forfeiture of eligibility.”
A simple majority vote of 6-4 would have passed the original proposal, but instead it failed in a 5-5 deadlock. Bowlsby said the FARs heard the amended rule change a day later “because they were 5-5 and it was obvious that there were mixed feelings about how it had come out, and I think the faculty representatives in conversation and consultation with others felt perhaps they hadn’t taken into consideration all components of it.
“And then as a matter of accuracy, it wasn’t a reconsideration, it was an adoption of a different proposal that had a narrower focus. That’s within their province to do that and they felt compelled to do it because of the ambivalence of a 5-5 vote.”
“I think this was a very good action by the faculty athletic representatives,” Boren said. “I think also requiring written evidence of an offer of scholarship which, in the case of Baker Mayfield, there was no written offer at the time. I think that strengthens it because from an evidentiary point of view, the conference doesn’t want to get into a he said-she said or he said-he said sort of situation. So we want to have written evidence of the offer being made. I think that, procedurally, is very strong.”