Whatever road there is back to normalcy for Baylor, be it long or be it short, will be done sans quarterback Jarrett Stidham in what may prove to be one of the seminal moments in Bear football futures as he was officially released from the school on Monday after declaring his intention to transfer earlier this month.
The conditions are what you’d expect at this point, whether you like them or not: Stidham, a highly sought after high school player, can go anywhere he wants as long as it’s not in the Big 12. He’ll return to the field in 2017.
Finding common ground on transfer rules is tough, and probably not happening anytime soon. On one hand, it seems callous to say, “sure, you can transfer, but we’re going to partially control your academic future.”
On the other, if you release a player to go wherever he chooses, you do run the risk of clandestine recruiting efforts by other teams and opposing players who are buddies on guys who may not be getting the playing time they feel they warrant but probably would elsewhere.
Recruiting is oily, and it doesn’t stop after high school.
Such that this decision was related in any way to opportunity rather than on-campus climate and the recent investigation into sexual assaults by football players, the waters on restricting someone become a bit murkier.
Student athletes should be able to expect that the program they walk into is above the fray on measures like that versus simply wanting more playing time.
But this clearly looks like a playing time decision, with coach Jim Grobe going so far as to point out that having two talented quarterbacks rarely works because they’re “fighting it out” as Grobe put it and noted that at Wake Forest when he had this issue, “I wasn’t happy.”
Grobe went on to say that he doesn’t care about class rank, and that whoever earns the starts will earn them, but Stidham clearly didn’t feel as though sitting behind senior Seth Russell was going to be the best use of his college career.
Stidham, who passed for nearly 1,300 yards in Russell’s relief from injury last year as a freshman before getting hurt in his own right, has the latitude to do what’s best for himself. In this case, he must have felt like the juice wasn’t worth the squeeze to be a backup and burn another year of eligibility on the bench.
Surely, the coaching staff turnover had to play into that role in some way, as Grobe’s comments lean towards the coach saying, and I paraphrase, “earn it, but if you don’t, yeah, you’re going to be a backup.”
The trouble for Baylor is that, even in spite of high level recruiting classes, it’s hard to tell what the fallout will be from the past off season of bloody, self-immolating circumstances. From an on-field perspective, such that you acknowledge football pales in comparison to the real issues here, winning would have been much more easily navigated with Stidham rowing the quarterback canoe.
The landscape of college sports is changing with transfers. It may just feel like it with no statistical reality to back it up, but it seems as though they’re much more commonplace.
Stidham had to do what he felt was in his best interest to protect himself as a player going forward in terms of getting opportunity. Baylor had to protect itself from a potential star player jumping ship for playing time to a rival.
Here’s to hoping it works out for both, and I don’t think we’re close to being done hearing from Stidham as a college football star. It just might take an extra year, in a different hue, before it happens.