One of the main talking points in this college football offseason has been the NCAA granting several high-profile quarterback transfers immediate eligibility waivers. Justin Fields, who transferred from the Georgia Bulldogs to the Ohio State Buckeyes, and Tate Martell, who transferred from Ohio State after the arrival of Fields to the Miami Hurricanes, both were granted immediate eligibility. While their petitions were different l, it has led many to question the NCAA and whether we have entered into a period of pseudo free agency. The transfer portal has already shaken up college football, Utah had multiple players enter it for instance, including one of the first, quarterback Jack Tuttle. Speaking of Tuttle, it was just announced today that his waiver for immediate eligibility was granted by the NCAA to play for the Indiana Hoosiers.
Let’s get to the free agency debate in a minute and first talk about one pending immediate eligibility waiver: Cameron Rising’s. Fresh off losing Tuttle to transfer and Jayden Daniels in recruiting to the Arizona State Sun Devils, Utah Utes fans got a huge boost when Rising announced he was transferring from the Texas Longhorns to the Utes. Rising, a four-star recruit coming out of high school, chose Texas over a host of schools, but after one season in Austin, he chose to transfer for multiple reasons, including a desire to play closer to home (California) and a scheme that runs the quarterback less. Rising is a big quarterback with a strong arm. He was a bit raw coming out of high school, requiring some correcting of his footwork and mechanics, but all of the physical tools are there for Rising to become an NFL quarterback. He redshirted at Texas, so he does not have a redshirt available for this season at Utah whether his waiver is approved or not. Utah returns their top two quarterbacks from last year in Tyler Huntley and Jason Shelley, so it seems unlikely that Rising would start at Utah as a redshirt freshman if his waiver is approved. However, he could gain valuable experience that would help him with his development. As Utah fans saw last year, it is important to have at least one capable backup because injuries can happen to the starting quarterback. Rising getting eligibility would give Utah even more depth at the most critical position. Even if he never starts a game for Utah, having a talented, competitive player like him to push Huntley will only make Huntley and the team better. If the NCAA approves Rising’s waiver, it would be a benefit to Utah because it would give the Utes three capable Power Five quarterbacks eligible to play in a season where Utah has big aspirations a roster that could achieve them (the first Pac-12 Championship in school history is not out of the question).
With the approval of waivers for Fields, Martell, and Tuttle, it would seem hypocritical not to approve Rising’s. But, the NCAA has shown many times that it can be just that. The circumstances around each waiver are different, and several of the players might have cited extenuating circumstances as part of their waivers. I do not want to discredit anything the players went through, but let’s be real, part of their transfer absolutely is for playing time. Fields and Martell are both candidates to start at blue blood programs, so it makes sense the NCAA approved their waivers. Both of them having the ability to start could improve those respective programs and bring the schools and the NCAA more money. Tuttle is headed to a school that returns its top two quarterbacks from last season, and Indiana is not exactly a football powerhouse. Tuttle’s waiver getting approved gives me some hope that Rising’s will as well, but the amount of time it is taking does not bode well. Hopefully, the NCAA makes a decision soon, so Rising and the team knows what his availability will be for this season.
Now, let’s circle back to the idea that some of these waivers (especially the one for Martell) has made the NCAA effectively allow free agency. I personally do not see these waivers as a bad thing. Coaches leave schools all the time. These players are under such pressure coming out of high school to make one of the toughest decisions of their lives. It is hard to know what you want in life, especially coming out of high school. Why punish them if they realize that they did not make the right decision? Many other college sports do not require athletes to sit out a year if they transfer (in fact only in basketball [both men’s and women’s], baseball, football, and men’s ice hockey do transfers have to sit for a year). Further, immediate eligibility for graduate transfers has been in place for years and has not caused major problems to the landscape of college football. Football players make millions of their schools, and many will never play professionally. Let them enjoy their last few years of football as much as possible and make decisions that work best for them.