Plenty of people — yours truly included — were perplexed, dumbfounded or outraged when the NCAA granted Tate Martell immediate eligibility upon transferring from Ohio State to Miami. Here was a guy, it seemed, transferring solely for playing time purposes and then being granted his get-off-the-bench-free card. Now, it seems, we have more context around the NCAA’s decision.
In an interview with ESPN’s Andrea Adelson, Martell says it was Ohio State who told him he should explore other options.
But when he arrived in Columbus, Ohio, Martell had J.T. Barrett and Dwayne Haskins in line ahead of him. Martell waited his turn, believing 2019 would be his year. Then Urban Meyer stepped down. Martell says he was told toward the end of the season he would be better off finding another school. Shortly after former No. 1 overall recruit Justin Fields announced he was transferring to Ohio State, Martell told the world he would transfer himself.
Of course, Martell famously dared Justin Fields into beating him out at Ohio State both on Twitter and in real life. “Why would I leave for someone who hasn’t put a single second into this program?” Martell told The Athletic ahead of the Rose Bowl. “I have put two years of literally working my ass off into something that I’ve been waiting for and a dream I’ve had my whole life. To just run away from somebody who hasn’t put a single second in at winter workouts and doesn’t know what the program is all about? There’s not a chance.”
As we know, Fields called Martell’s bluff, which caused Martell to fold himself.
But how much of that decision was Martell’s and how much was Ohio State’s? This quote from the ESPN feature makes it sound like it was Martell’s decision, or at least 50/50.
“After being there for two years and not playing, I couldn’t risk it anymore,” he said. “There’s a point where you love your teammates, you love everything about the school and the people there, but you have to start thinking about yourself and not doing it because these are my teammates. They all understood, and they weren’t upset at all.”
Either way, Fields now has the job Martell thought was his, and Martell is battling to win a job at Miami.
That precedent — and just how much Ohio State’s “blessing” on Martell’s departure impacted the NCAA’s decision to grant him his waiver — matters moving forward, because Matthew Baldwin has since announced his own transfer to TCU and will seek immediate eligibility, just like his former teammate got.