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Big 12 takes stand against student-athletes

Wednesday was not a good day for the Big 12 when it comes to how the conference and its members handle student-athletes. Between the Big 12 failing to pass the “Baker Mayfield Rule” and a report saying Baylor will not release Class of 2016 additions from their Letters of Intent, it became pretty clear the Big 12 does not respect the student-athlete the way it should.

We have been told time and time again the NCAA and member institutions are making rules and provisions in order to enhance the experience for the student-athlete, but the message that continues to be sent is they will work for you unless you want to go somewhere else. It seems no conference has a bellyache as much as those in the Big 12 seem to have when players want to go somewhere else. Mind you, this is generalizing to a great extent and there are exceptions to that rule. That said, the Big 12 continues to be the place to find schools just doing everything they can to make it more difficult for the players to explore all of their options with their own best interests in mind.

Everything that could have gone wrong did when it comes to the Big 12 and the rights of a student-athlete.

THE BAKER MAYFIELD RULE

The Big 12 failed to pass a proposed rule that would have allowed walk-ons to transfer within the Big 12 without losing a season of eligibility. As it stands, players transferring to another Big 12 school are forced to sit out a season and lose a year of eligibility in the process even though they are not restricted to the same scholarship transfer rules other players must follow. The rule proposal became known as the Baker Mayfield Rule after the Oklahoma quarterback and Heisman Trophy hopeful, Baker Mayfield. Had the rule passed, Mayfield would have regained a year of eligibility he previously lost when transferring from Texas Tech to Oklahoma.

The rule, proposed by Oklahoma, failed to receive the majority vote count it needed to be passed. The vote ended in a stalemate, leaving Oklahoma fans upset. The big reason why the vote failed to pass appeared to be a concern about other Big 12 programs offering scholarships to walk-on players. You know, because how dare another school come by and offer a free education you fail to provide as an option.

If that is indeed the logic at play, the schools opposing the proposal will play it off as a way to show they are protecting their players from unwanted distractions, but it fails to come off as anything other than finding a way to keep talent in your program without having to offer a scholarship and not having to fear that possibility coming from elsewhere in your conference. This decision was made solely for the sake of the roster, not the student-athlete’s best interests.

Of course, had any other school served up the proposal or if Mayfield did not specifically become tied to the rule, perhaps the result is completely different and the Big 12 comes off looking good in the end. Maybe schools are just afraid of Mayfield’s talent and are looking for a way to have him move on in 2017.

If that is the case, then even more shame should fall on those opposing the vote, as it would have been made or influenced by the talent of one kid that may end up being the most talented player this rule would ever apply.

I have been critical of the transfer process, beginning with my displeasure in how Texas Tech blocked Mayfield’s transfer a couple of years ago. Texas Tech also tried to make sure Michael Brewer could not transfer to Texas or TCU in 2014. They even did that with a five-person committee upholding Kliff Kingsbury’s decision to block those transfer options. Brewer wound up at Virginia Tech.

I also bashed Oklahoma State head coach Mike Gundy for previously preventing quarterback Wes Lunt from transferring to any Pac-12 or SEC program (potential bowl matchup) in addition to Big 12 programs as well as Southern Mississippi (former Oklahoma State assistant Todd Monken just took over as head coach), Central Michigan (upcoming opponent). Gundy ended up lifting those restrictions, perhaps due to bad publicity. Lunt made his way to Illinois anyway.

This stuff has been going on for years and it is time to let the player decide what is best for them and keep these coaches and programs from standing in their way. Yes, it happens in other conferences, but it

BAYLOR MAKES ANOTHER BAD DECISION

While all of that was going on, as many as seven players in Baylor’s Class of 2016 requested to be released from their national letters of intent, which binds them to a scholarship at Baylor. The best recruiting class in school history suddenly has a good handful of players looking to back out after the coach that recruited them (Art Briles) was fired amid controversy connected to a series of sexual abuse incidents within the program and athletics department. Following that report from ESPN, Bruce Feldman of FOX Sports provided a few more details reporting Baylor has no intention of releasing their Class of 2016 commitments from their scholarships.

On Wednesday night FOX Sports spoke to Collis Cobb, the father of one of those seven players, Parrish Cobb, a highly regarded cornerback. The elder Cobb told FOX that they filed to get his son’s release from his LOI on Saturday, two days after Briles was let go, and someone in Baylor’s compliance office told him they weren’t willing to do it. Baylor has a 30-day deadline to respond to each recruit’s request for a release and without that release, the recruit is not allowed to have any contact with another school.

Later, Julian Urquidez took to Twitter to share his frustration with Baylor over the misleading recruiting process his son (offensive lineman J.P. Urquidez) went through and to rip the school for the lack of communication and response he and his family have observed over the past week.

Expecting Baylor to do the right thing from a public relations perspective appears to be ill-advised, as this is the same school that will keep Ken Starr as a law professor after demoting him from the role of university president and seeing him resign from his role as chancellor. Still, realizing these kids no longer are stepping into what they were sold under these extreme circumstances is the right thing to do. Instead, Baylor is acting as though the national letter of intent is a blood oath, which it might as well be in the Big 12. This is a case where the NCAA needs to step in and pull some weight by allowing those who wish to leave a chance to move on without penalty. Baylor has no right to strangle these players into playing for their program when they were unaware of the severity of whatever was happening off the field and behind the scenes at Baylor. Why waste their time forcing them to work for you?

I have criticized Big 12 programs before when it comes to transfers. I have been critical of programs like Oklahoma State and Texas Tech placing numerous restrictions on transfer options for a player choosing to go to a new program or refusing to work with the student to allow them to transfer. It all comes back to what is best for the coach, not the student-athlete.

It is time the Big 12 stops standing in the way of what is right for the student-athlete, which is the freedom to explore their own options in hope of finding a situation they feel comfortable. On Wednesday, the Big 12 did everything it could to prevent that from happening.

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About the Author

Kevin McGuire
Contributor to College Football Talk on NBCSports.com. Also a contributor to Athlon Sports and The Comeback. Member of Football Writers Association of America and National Football Foundation. Follow on Twitter @KevinOnCFB.
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