Kyler Murray‘s situation is going to be a year-long fascination for media covering Oklahoma because, well, it’s a fascinating situation. The two-sport star was drafted ninth overall by the Oakland Athletics in June’s MLB draft, but the club and the quarterback quickly worked out a deal that will allow Murray to play football in 2018 before turning his attention to the diamond in 2019 and beyond — and then handed him $4.6 million to secure Murray’s commitment starting next year.
Each of the principals was on board with the plan, with A’s scouting director Eric Kubota saying on draft night, “We were totally on board with his desire to play quarterback at Oklahoma. Frankly, we’re kind of excited to be Oklahoma fans.”
Each of the principals was on board, it seems, except OU head coach Lincoln Riley.
“Well, I’m not really,” Riley told The Oklahoman when asked how he’ll approach his quarterback position given Murray is essentially a senior this season. “Decide how I want to handle that … um, we’ll see if it’s his final year. That hasn’t been determined yet. I’m not worried about it if it is or if it isn’t. That’s gonna have no impact on this year.”
Pressed on the issue, Riley went on to say he wasn’t informed on his quarterback’s contract situation — an odd explanation, since it’s part of his job to be informed of his quarterback’s availability.
“I’ve stayed out of the negotiation stuff with the A’s,” Riley said. “That’s not my business. It’s his business. My hope through this whole thing is that Kyler is gonna be able to do what he wants to do. If he wants to go play baseball after this year, then we’ll wish him well and be happy for him. But the ball’s gonna be in his court, which is where it should be.”
Reached by The Athletic on Saturday, baseball super-agent Scott Boras confirmed that, yes, this is Murray’s final season. That’s what the $4.6 million was for, after all. “Kyler’s baseball career has a very defined path which includes playing football at OU for only the 2018 season,” he told the site.
Riley also insisted at Big 12 media days that Murray has not yet secured the Sooners’ starting quarterback job, saying that redshirt sophomore Austin Kendall was very much in competition with Murray.
Asked if Murray would truly come back to school without a starting job assured to him given the A’s have promised him $4.6 million, Riley said, “Because he loves football. He simply loves football. A lot of people have a hard time believing that, but money’s not everything to some people. Not to say that doesn’t factor in — I’m sure it does — but the kid, he loves football.”
Murray served as Baker Mayfield‘s backup last season, hitting 18-of-21 passes for 359 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions while rushing 14 times for 142 yards. Kendall redshirted last fall after completing 16-of-22 passes for 143 yards with two scores and no picks in two appearances as a true freshman in 2016.
It certainly seems like Murray will be Oklahoma’s quarterback for 2018 and 2018 only. But maybe, in Riley’s world, Murray will be Kendall’s backup for the next two years and tell the A’s to pound sand.