Following months of waivers and appeals, Shea Patterson, the former quarterback at Ole Miss, was allowed by the Rebels, the NCAA, and Michigan (his new team) to transfer and play immediately for the Wolverines. Naturally, this was preceded by Patterson and his lawyer essentially daring Ole Miss and the NCAA to continue fighting his plans of playing this upcoming season, using a mysterious nine-page letter partially reported on by CBSSports to shine a light on his situation. In the vein of Braxton Beverly and Cam Johnson, after Patterson publicly called the school and its governing body on their shit, they relented.
The Division I Council is a 40-person group, one of the NCAA’s more important councils or committees when it comes to getting immediate fixes on the books. According to the April 2018 Division I Council meeting notes, the council took up the issue of post-transfer eligibility, admitting that the rules, as written, were restrictive to athletes stuck in bad situations out of their immediate control. The new guidelines for transfers in situations like Shea Patterson’s read as follows:
a. The transfer is due to documented mitigating circumstances that are outside the student-athlete’s control and directly impact the health, safety and well-being of the student-athlete;
b. At the time of transfer to the certifying institution, the student-athlete would have been athletically and academically eligible and in good standing on the team had he or she remained at the previous institution;
c. The certifying institution must certify that the student-athlete meets percentage-of degree requirements; and
d. The previous institution’s athletics administration does not oppose the transfer.
The NCAA’s new rule change was effective immediately, going into place on April 18. Last Thursday, Ole Miss and Michigan released a joint statement, announcing the Wolverines would drop their original appeal and the Rebels would willingly let Patterson walk. Patterson initially retained the legal assistance of Thomas Mars—if you remember, Mars was the lawyer that helped Houston Nutt wreak PR havoc on Ole Miss, Hugh Freeze, and some other Rebels last summer. For his work here, Mars even got a shoutout in Patterson’s written response to the announcement of his eligibility.
With Michigan being Patterson’s destination, there is, of course, an appearance from Jim Harbaugh in all this. Over the weekend, while on the Michigan team trip to France, Harbaugh was asked by the Detroit News about Patterson’s transfer and about the transfer process more generally, as it related to immediate eligibility. But the line of questioning, despite being offered up to a former college player in Harbaugh, produced the standard coach response:
“Most college students or football players, you go through at least one time where you say, ‘I’m leaving, I’m quitting, I’m going to go somewhere else, think the grass is greener on the other side of the street,’” Harbaugh said.
“Maybe things got a little tough, maybe things got a little hard. It’s usually better to stick it out, it’s usually better to stay at the place you are and see something through. I don’t think we want to send the message in college football if it’s not working out, or if it’s getting tough or hard, go somewhere else.”
Harbaugh followed this with the standard Athletic Director response, which is to say an idea so far in the opposite direction of what’s needed that it’s almost laughable (only almost, though). In speaking with the Detroit News, Harbaugh proposed schools paying other schools for transfers:
“There’s gotta be something,” Harbaugh said. “Maybe the school pays back the other school. Say a school like Michigan gets a player from Eastern Michigan or Central Michigan or transfers, maybe you have to pay the scholarship back or maybe it counts as an extra scholarship. Just so it doesn’t become free agency in college football. That’s the thing I would worry about.”
It’s always good to be reminded that powerful people like Harbaugh, who makes $7.6 million in salary alone every year, have no problem injecting even more money into the college football ecosystem right up until someone mentions paying the players.