The rule Russell Wilson made famous is here to stay

From ESPN - August 12, 2017

Forgive Dana Holgorsen for not recognizing his place on the cutting edge in 2011.

Holgorsen took over as a rookie head coach at West Virginia under the most unusual of circumstances, and was on the verge of changing conferences, when Devon Brown fell into his lap as a transfer from Wake Forest in 2011.

WVU's third-leading receiver in his lone year with Holgorsen, Brown avoided the customary sit-out season after his transfer because he had already earned an undergraduate degree at Wake Forest.

By the end of that 2011 season, though, eyes nationally were open wide to the weighty impact of postgraduate transfers, later to be known simply as grad transfers. Blame Russell Wilson, the one-year Wisconsin quarterback, scooped up from North Carolina State, for blowing the lid off this nuance in the rulebook.

Wilson progressed from a fledgling minor league infielder in the Colorado Rockies' system to the single-season NCAA-record holder for passing efficiency, MVP of the Big Ten title game and Rose Bowl star, to Rookie of the Year in the NFL, three-time Pro Bowl QB for the Seahawks and husband to R&B songstress Ciara.

He put grad transfers on the map and indefinitely raised expectations, sending coaches to scour the rosters of rival programs and lower-division powers for the next mercenary who could lead a title drive.

Labeled as free agents or pioneers set to unleash an epidemic similar to what exists in college basketball -- rampant with transfers on the undergraduate market -- grad transfers, no doubt, are changing the complexion of college football.

But are they changing it for the worse?

"I am very comfortable with the way it works," said Holgorsen, set to enter his seventh year at West Virginia after a 10-win season in 2016. "It's never bit me, but I can see where coaches would be upset if it bit them."

You can imagine, six years after Wilson, how coaches and players nationally remain eager to tap into the grad-transfer movement. His accomplishments aside, success stories abound to offer motivation for the latest round of grad transfers.

More than 60 graduates switched schools at the FBS level in 2017.

Among the high-profile newcomers to August practice sessions are quarterbacks Max Browne (USC to Pitt), Brandon Harris (LSU to North Carolina), Malik Zaire (Notre Dame to Florida) and Shane Morris (Michigan to Central Michigan); receivers Freddy Canteen (Michigan to Notre Dame), Jeff Badet (Kentucky to Oklahoma) and Jalen Brown (Oregon to Northwestern); offensive tackle Aaron Cochran (Cal to Oklahoma State); defensive lineman Scott Pagano (Clemson to Oregon); and cornerback Shaq Wiggins (Louisville to Tennessee).

Some jump to find a better playing situation. Some do it to escape an unhealthy culture. Others need a fresh start or an out after a coaching change.

What's clear is that few players transfer to find a school with a strong graduate program in their desired area of study. Yes, that was, in fact, the impetus behind the initial legislation to open the door for graduates to transfer without penalty.

Nevertheless, interviews this summer with more than a dozen Power 5 coaches revealed none who were upset about the misappropriation of the original grad-transfer rules.

"If a kid comes into your program, does everything right, gets his degree and still has eligibility left," Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said, "I do not see why you would hold him back if he thinks he's got a better opportunity."

"I ca not say people are abusing it," Illinois coach Lovie Smith said.

"That's the goal, to graduate," Arizona coach Rich Rodriguez said.


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