Save for a squib kick here or a field goal attempt there, Lincoln Riley hasn’t made many bad decisions in his short time as head coach at Oklahoma.
When Riley found out that backup quarterback Austin Kendall wanted to consider transferring to West Virginia, Riley all but shot it down, taking advantage of a Big 12 Conference rule that allows schools to block a prospective transfer’s immediate eligibility unless they first obtain a waiver.
Riley was fine with Kendall — a three-year backup for the Sooners — setting down roots in Morgantown if that’s where he wanted to go. But on the subject of gaining immediate NCAA eligibility, and on the subject of playing two years for the rival Mountaineers (potentially four times, including the Big 12 Championship Game) instead of one, Riley put his foot down.
Now, according to multiple reports, Riley has corrected the first bad decision he’s made as CEO of one of college football’s most powerful properties.
USA Today’s George Schroeder tweeted at 5:27 p.m. Wednesday that OU will grant Kendall a waiver that will allow him to be eligible immediately at WVU or wherever he wants to go. Schroeder wrote that the school “has worked through its concerns” about Kendall playing for WVU in 2019.
Kendall previously visited Auburn and, according to 247 Sports, has not yet visited WVU. EerSports.com reports that Kendall will meet with Mountaineer coaches on campus Thursday.
After a day of social media blowback and national columnists and pundits decrying OU’s hypocrisy for placing restrictions on student-athlete who has already graduated, the tide turned.
Riley is clever, friendly and a natural extrovert. He listens and he’s respectful. He cares deeply about his players. And he has taken on tough issues and difficult queries with an uncommon and congenial openness.
But when it comes to his playbook, offensive schemes or play-calling tendencies, Riley is fiercely paranoid.
Riley hasn’t been made available for comment, so we are left to speculate.
He may have simply feared the kind of damage that a three-year quarterback can do to his program if turned over to a conference rival. Or he may have simply been slow-playing Kendall until he got concrete assurances that Alabama’s Jalen Hurts was indeed enrolled at OU as a graduate student. Hurts’ arrival Wednesday after starting two seasons in Tuscaloosa ensures the Sooners will have proven experience and talent at the position.
Whatever Riley’s reason for blocking Kendall’s immediate eligibility, the coach came to his senses and, once again, did the right thing.
Columnist John E. Hoover is co-host of “The Franchise Drive” every weeknight from 6-8 on The Franchise in Oklahoma City and Tulsa, and appears throughout the day on other shows on The Franchise. Listen at fm107.7 in OKC, fm107.9/am1270 in Tulsa, on The Franchise app, or click the “Listen” tab on The Franchise home page. Hoover also covers the Big 12 for Sporting News and Lindy’s magazine and is a feature writer for Sooner Spectator magazine. Visit his personal page at johnehoover.com.