Oregon appears to have done everything by the book in getting Eastern Washington quarterback Vernon Adams Jr. to play next year for the Ducks. So is Eastern merely being sensitive?
CHENEY – Vernon Adams Jr. met me at the entrance to Roos Field here Tuesday, looking sleek in a gray jacket with a yellow “O” on the chest.
A student at Eastern Washington touting the glory of Oregon.
“It was 50-50 the whole time,” said Adams, talking about his celebrated, planned transfer from Eastern to the Ducks. “I just felt this was a big dream of mine – playing at Oregon, having fun at the big-guy level.”
Not 90 minutes later, the Eastern Washington basketball coach, Jim Hayford, was on 700 ESPN Radio in Spokane. At the end of a routine discussion about his good Eagles team, he was asked about the concept of graduate transfers, which have been more prevalent in basketball.
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Hayford referred to having been around meetings in the Eastern athletic department, about there being a right way and wrong way to take on a graduate transfer and then said, “Oregon didn’t do it the right way.”
So there you have it, Husky fans. In addition to having been schooled 11 straight times by the Ducks; in addition to the aggravation of seeing the quarterback who strafed a good Washington defense for 52 points last September land with your archrival, now you have the specter that somehow Oregon didn’t play nice in acquiring a player who can be a real game-changer.
Everybody agrees that the process is supposed to work like this: A player wishing to take advantage of the NCAA’s graduate-transfer rule must gain “permission to contact” from his school’s compliance officer. Adams, and the Eastern athletic director, Bill Chaves, say he did that. Then, potential “receiving institutions” – presumably hand-picked by the player – can reach out.
Did Oregon approach Adams before he gained that permission? Did the Ducks work his high-school coach, Dean Herrington, who knows a couple of the Oregon assistants and concedes he discussed the grad-transfer possibility with Adams “a long time ago”?
Or could Eastern merely be sensitive to the fact that it was the most prominent school a few years ago to recognize Adams’ potential, nurture him and now loses him to the next (collegiate) level, and of all places, to Shoe U.?
Chaves, reached after Hayford’s comment, didn’t specifically lodge any charges against the Ducks. Nor did he do anything to hose off the idea that Oregon may have somehow pushed the envelope.
“I think they’ve followed the rules,” Chaves said. “It’s almost like baseball: There’s rules and unwritten rules. Whether you’ve dotted the I’s and crossed the T’s, from maybe an unwritten standpoint, that’s for many people to debate, I guess.
“Everyone has their own compass, so to speak, as far as what you do.”
Herrington said Tuesday night of the Ducks, “They never called me or anything to ask about Vernon until after he got the permission to contact. As far as I know, they did everything by the book.”
Through a spokesman, Oregon athletic director Rob Mullens said he was confident the Ducks had acted properly.
The whiff of possible funny business by Oregon served to put on the back burner the debate on the rule, which allows athletes who graduate the option of playing a final season elsewhere if the graduate program at the receiving school is unavailable at the first one.
Chaves, part of the 40-member NCAA Council, wants to see the rule revisited, noting statistics that show such transfers usually withdraw from the final school once their eligibility is up.
In Adams’ case, I suppose the noblest outcome would have been for him to say Eastern was the place that gave him a chance, and by God, he’s going to see the Eagles through.
But this is the real world. It’s tough to deny him when his coach at Eastern was mentioned as a possible candidate for the Oregon State football job in December, and U.S. judges are looking ever more favorably on athletes’ rights against the NCAA’s precarious model.
“They’re not in my position,” Adams said firmly, talking about possible critics. “Nobody knows the situation I’m in. I’m going through a lot with my family, my personal life and stuff.”
Adams has an 8-month-old son in Cheney. He says his girlfriend gave him her blessing to move on to Oregon.
He took his visit to Eugene and found the facilities “everything I expected, times 10.”
It won’t be a slam-dunk for Adams. He has to get a degree – he says June 12 is the day – learn new terminology in a different system and overtake quarterbacks already there. But this is a player, who in his last two games against Pac-12 defenses, led his team to 101 points and a victory over Oregon State.
“I feel if I can earn a spot, I can lead ‘em back (to the college playoffs),” he said. “All I’ve got to do is get the playmakers the ball and let them do the rest.”
I asked him if he planned to walk at graduation ceremonies.
“I think so,” he said. He laughed and added, “I’m kind of scared if I do, everybody will start booing me.”
The day after comes the real walk.