The bet here is by this time next year, D’Eriq King, the erstwhile Cougar, will be Lincoln Riley’s latest Heisman quarterback project. Or maybe he’ll ramp up Sonny Dykes’ SMU revival. Maybe even patch things up between Gary Patterson and his offensive coordinator.
Wherever he ends up, King, who quit on his Houston teammates this week, gets the last laugh on the fossils down at the NCAA.
Don’t want to give football players their share of the loot? Fine. Paid or not, they wield more power than anyone in their shoes since Earl Campbell ran up Isiah Robertson’s sternum.
King went to extremes when he announced he’d take advantage of the new redshirt rules and sit out the rest of what would have been his senior season. One of his teammates, a wide receiver named Keith Corbin, joined him. King says he’s just taking a break so he can come back a better Cougar next year. Right. Believe that, and you probably think the Beatles are coming back, too.
Before getting the wrong idea, you should know that your intrepid reporter believes players are due roughly the same rights as adults making a fat living off of them. If coaches can weasel out of commitments, seems like players should be free to do the same.
Just the same, the starting quarterback quitting in the middle of a season? Even King’s father couldn’t make it sound defensible.
“He’s got a lot of teammates riding on him,” Eric King told Mark Berman, sports anchor for Houston’s Fox affiliate.
“Sometimes you got to be a little self-centered and do what’s best for you.”
And parents wonder why kids act so embarrassed around them.
King isn’t the only player jumping ship early, just the best. ESPN ranked him among college football’s 15 most exciting players before the season. He hasn’t been very good this season. No doubt it’s one of the reasons for the Cougars’ 1-3 record, not to mention King’s decision to take a load off. Even so, he’s unquestionably talented. And, like it or not, as a quarterback and the team’s best player, he’s accountable to more than himself.
On the other hand, players are bouncing everywhere. Since Oct. 18 of last year, more than 500 football players nationwide have entered something called the transfer portal, which sounds like something out of Star Trek and works the same way, only without any atom scrambling. Three players left Tennessee just this week, bringing the Vols’ number of exit-teers this season to five.
Players in the portal can talk to coaches from other colleges while remaining enrolled at their current institutions. Even if they probably should, they don’t have to leave. If they do, they still have to sit out a year. Unless they already have their degrees, in which case they’re immediately eligible.
Maybe no school in the nation has better taken advantage of transfers than SMU. A school spokesman says the football roster numbers 35 transfers, though not all are currently eligible. They didn’t all come through the portal, either. Eleven are grad transfers, giving SMU 21 football players with degrees. The astounding figure leads the nation, according to the National Football Foundation.
Does it bother me that athletes get their degrees and find somewhere else to play? Not on your life. If you earn your degree in four years or less, you earn the right to do as you please.
The grad transfer ordinance is one of the rare rules good for students as well as colleges. Texas Tech wouldn’t have made the Final Four without it in the spring, and SMU wouldn’t be 4-0 if not for its transfers.
Jeff Jordan, SMU’s director of player personnel, told The News this week that the portal “caught everybody by surprise on how big it actually has become. And I just think we’re really fortunate to be right here, in the right place, at the right time.”
READ MORE: Prediction: Will Charlie Strong’s USF stop Shane Buechele, SMU from starting 5-0?
How’s this for timing: Any day now, the Mustangs will learn if Kedrick James, a Waco kid who ended up in Dallas by way of Tuscaloosa, will be eligible to play tight end for SMU.
Wary of how all this looks, Dykes told The News he’s not sure the portal is “sending the right message to guys.”
Then again, what’s not to like, right, Sonny?
“I think they ought to go someplace where they are happy,” he said.
What’s wrong with reinforcing recruiting classes with players looking for a second chance?
The rules have changed, and players are simply taking advantage of it. Sure, some are exceeding the boundaries of what’s appropriate. Though King insists he’s coming back to Houston, his dad has reportedly said D’Eriq wants to transfer. His ears probably perked up after the Cougars’ loss to Oklahoma, when Riley told reporters, “There aren’t five quarterbacks in the country who are better … and that may be too many. He’s fantastic.”
He might soon be a Sooner. Or a Mustang. Or a Horned Frog. For better or worse, it’s a brave new world in college football.