Transfer quarterback Austin Kendall could become West Virginia’s starter this season if he outplays his counterparts during training camp.
It’s a hypothetical scenario that seemed like it wouldn’t happen last winter.
After Oklahoma landed Alabama transfer Jalen Hurts, Kendall expressed interest in transferring to West Virginia, where he could play out the final two years of his eligibility and potentially replace Will Grier as the starting quarterback. But the Sooners appeared set on blocking the transfer before a change of heart a few days later.
Oklahoma head coach Lincoln Riley commented on that situation Monday at Big 12 Media Days, saying his personal relationship with Kendall — whom he recruited out of high school — influenced the initial decision to block the transfer.
“The fact that he took a chance and came out to Oklahoma when I first got there, the fact that I was kind of with him every step of the way, the personal side of it overtook maybe the business side of it in my head, and my views on it haven’t changed,” said Riley. “I still don’t really agree with it, but I realized in that moment that I wanted to do the best thing for the kid, and I just couldn’t get past the personal side of it.”
New WVU coach Neal Brown also has a personal relationship with Kendall. He recruited the current redshirt junior when he was an assistant at Kentucky.
Riley also noted that Kendall’s immediate eligibility at another Big 12 program influenced his stance on the matter.
“I was always gonna let him go to West Virginia. That was no issue,” said Riley. “That’s part of these new rules. We can’t restrict them from going anywhere. I had a concern about a player being able to transfer and be immediately eligible the very next year in our league. I don’t think that’s healthy for our league.”
Riley hopes the Big 12 continues to evaluate its transfer rules.
“I hope it’s something we keep looking at,” said Riley. “I think we’ve gotta protect our league on that, and I think that’s something we’ve got to look out for each other on.”
Commissioner Bob Bowlsby discussed transfers and the transfer portal during his opening address, noting that it will continue to be a “front and center issue in the foreseeable future.”
While the number of transfers in the Big 12 has remained consistent since the introduction of the transfer portal, Bowlsby believes coaches restricting where athletes can transfer played a part in its inception.
“We wouldn’t be in this situation if we hadn’t had coaches that were saying, ‘Well, you can transfer to this institution A, but you can’t go to B or C, and you can’t go to D,’ or they embargo it all together,” said Bowlsby. “So I think it probably was avoidable, but we are where we are now.”