Earlier this week, Eastern Washington quarterback Vernon Adams, Jr. announced that he would transfer to Oregon after completing his final semester of undergraduate work in the spring. The decision offers a rare opportunity to see a standout FCS star making a leap up in competitive quality prior to the NFL. While plenty of players have flamed out at the FBS level and moved to a smaller school to increase their playing time, few and far between are the stories of players moving in the opposite direction.
The transition gives Oregon a veteran quarterback to compete for the starting job now open after reigning Heisman winner Marcus Mariota declared for the NFL Draft. In two years as the EWU starter, Adams went 1-1 against Pac-12 competition, engineering an upset of Oregon State in 2013 and nearly knocking off Washington last year in a 59-52 shootout. In those appearances against FBS opponents, Adams completed over 70 percent of his passes (54-of-76) for 886 yards, 11 touchdowns, and zero interceptions. The dual-threat star also added 123 yards and two touchdowns on the ground. In the process he proved himself worthy of a chance to take on such opponents with greater regularity.
Adams, though, will have to keep himself in shape without the support of either his former program or his future one. Because he still needs to finish coursework at Eastern Washington, he cannot head to Eugene in time for spring practices or utilize the Ducks’ opulent facilities. And having already announced his intention to step up to Pac-12 competition, he has been essentially ostracized by his former program.
It makes sense that Eastern Washington wouldn’t want Adams practicing with the team, given that he’s transferring to the FCS powerhouse’s opening opponent of the 2015 season. But the statements made by EWU head coach Beau Baldwin in a recent interview with 700 ESPN Radio in Spokane revealed a hypocritical stance about transfers.
“It’s not what the rule is intended for,” Baldwin said about the NCAA provision that allows athletes who have completed undergraduate degrees to transfer to another school without penalty, “and when you’re Oregon and we’ve gotten a guy that we recruited when no one else was … ultimately we feel like, you know what, we were also the ones who developed him from a level where obviously out of high school he wasn’t at that level.”
Baldwin takes umbrage with another school being able to poach his quarterback without his being forced to sit a season after the transfer. Yet the Eastern Washington coach has benefited not once, but twice, from quarterbacks moving down to the FCS level from upper-level schools. He has complained about Oregon using his program as a pipeline with the courting of Adams, yet Baldwin has twice turned to SMU as his own source for signal-callers.
In 2010, Bo Levi Mitchell left June Jones’ program as a junior and made an immediate impact in Cheney. Getting to play immediately for the Eagles, Mitchell was integral in Eastern Washington’s run all the way to the FCS national championship victory over Delaware. Baldwin certainly wasn’t complaining at that point about the fairness of his own player getting to start immediately without being sidelined for a season. Nor did he bring up the unfairness of transfer rules when Mitchell was awarded the Walter Payton Award the following season as the top player in the FCS.
Once Mitchell had exhausted his eligibility, did Baldwin turn toward Adams, that player he “recruited when no one else was” offering him a chance? No… instead, Baldwin turned his head once again in the direction of Dallas, where he plucked Kyle Padron from the Mustangs to follow in the footsteps of Mitchell. Adams would get only clean-up opportunities during his freshman season as he backed up the transfer from SMU. Only as a sophomore in 2013 would Adams get his chance to take the reins.
Beau Baldwin is happy to talk the talk about fairness in transfers, but his actions speak far louder than the empty words he has spewed. . Now that the pipeline has trickled out of rather than into Cheney, Baldwin’s hypocrisy has been laid bare for all to see. When the transfer rules work in his favor, Baldwin is all too happy to bring in one FBS quarterback after another. When it could adversely affect his program, though, Baldwin won’t hesitate to flip his stance and cry foul. It is merely another piece of evidence belying the myth that coaches are educators looking out for the best interest of their students.