Eastern Washington Eagles

FCS coach lobbies to end NCAA’s graduate transfer rule

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When quarterback Vernon Adams decided to transfer from Eastern Washington to Oregon, Montana State head coach Rob Ash said he would “cheer for him.” But the move has Ash questioning the FCS’s standing within the grand scheme of major college football.

Adams was one of the best players at the FCS level. Ash is worried that his school and others of its ilk might develop into a feeder system for much bigger programs.

“We’re Division I like the other level,” Ash said in a telephone interview, via ESPN.com. “Our guys need to start and finish at the same school. We cannot be perceived as a farm system or Triple-A ballclub or anything like that.”

A loophole in the NCAA’s rules has been exploited in recent years. A graduate student is allowed to transfer without sitting out a season if his previous school doesn’t offer graduate studies in his preferred area. It’s become a way for student-athletes to control when and where they play.

Russell Wilson made the rule famous when he transferred from North Carolina State to Wisconsin, and Adams is simply the latest example of a talented player taking advantage of the situation.

“I’m really opposed to this rule the way it’s starting to be manipulated by FBS schools,” Ash continued. “As FCS coaches, we need to lobby now to get this rule changed. It’s going to be potentially a very difficult, bad situation for FCS with really good players that we recruit, we develop, being tempted to move on for that fifth and final year.”

Fellow FCS coaches are worried they won’t get to benefit from their work with certain players.

“It’s not what the rule is intended for,” Eastern Washington coach Beau Baldwin said. “… Ultimately we feel like, you know what, we were also the ones who developed [Adams] from a level where obviously out of high school he wasn’t at that level.”

Due to Baldwin’s stance on the transfer, he won’t allow Adams to work out in the team’s facilities before his transfer is official.

The school, however, still supports Adams’ decision.

“We wish Vernon the best in his future endeavors and thank him for all that he has done for Eastern,” athletic director Bill Chaves said in a statement. “The chance for him to pursue this opportunity is certainly a unique one given the fifth-year transfer rule. We are not sure that this was the actual intent of the legislation when it was approved, but it is the rule currently in place that we and potentially other schools have to adhere to. We will continue to work through the process of this transfer based on the rule as it stands now.”

FCS coaches not sure Vernon Adams can transition from EWU to Oregon

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There is very little Vernon Adams can prove with another year at Eastern Washington.

During his time as a member of the Eagles, the quarterback has proved he’s one of the elite players at the FCS level of play, and he helped lead his team to three straight playoff appearances.

In 37 career games, Adams threw for 10,438 yards, 110 touchdowns and 31 interceptions. Plus, the quarterback ran for 1,232 yards and 11 more touchdowns.

However, none of this means he’s ready to make the leap from the FCS level to play for the Oregon Ducks, who just played in a national championship game.

Adams is still entertaining the idea of transferring, though, as he prepares to visit Eugene this weekend.

“I’m not saying I’m leaving Eastern, but I’m just going to check it out and see what they have to say,” Adams told The Spokesman-Review‘s Jim Allen.

FCS coaches believe Adams can play at the level, but it may not be the right time for the quarterback to make the move.

“If I was advising him, I’d say he should stay,” Sam Houston State’s K.C. Keeler told The Oregonian‘s Andrew Greif.

Keeler once coached Joe Flacco at Delaware before eventually becoming the Bearkats’ head coach. Sam Houston State even faced Eastern Washington to open its 2014 campaign.

“I walked out of that saying I don’t think I’ll see a better quarterback in the country and in my time coaching, I can’t list a whole lot better than I just saw,” Keeler said. “I have no reservation saying he’ll go into the Oregon locker room and that he’ll be as talented as anybody. It’s just there are a lot of things that go into being a starting quarterback.

“I’m disappointed he’s leaving because I think what players have to understand is bigger is not better, better is better. He’s developed an unbelievable following at Eastern Washington and I’d be disappointed he’s leaving our level. I’m not excited that he’s trying to bump up to a higher level. The more he plays, the better he’s going to get, and I don’t know if that’s the situation at Oregon.”

One obstacle Adams will face if he does decide to transfer is waiting to become part of the Ducks program until this summer. The quarterback is on track to graduate in June, which means he wouldn’t be able to participate in Oregon’s spring ball.

“I think there’s a real risk for Vernon Adams to do that,” former Oregon receivers coach and current Montana coach Robin Pflugrad said. “Can Vernon Adams do it? I’m a firm believer he can having seen him and having watched him from afar. It’s just going to be a totally different challenge for him and some of that is mental.”

The coaches were in agreement on one thing. If Adams does transfer to Oregon, they’ll be rooting for him to succeed.

“We’d cheer for him and a lot more than when he was playing against us, too,” Montana State’s Rob Ash said.