The so-called ‘Baker Mayfield Rule’ continues to spread throughout the country as players’ freedom of movement becomes a hot button issue in the world of the NCAA.
Per a release from the league office, the American Athletic Conference has formally approved a rule change that will allow walk-ons (or, more formally, student-athletes not on scholarship) to transfer to another school in the conference without having to sit a year.
The move came as part of a broader set of issues that were discussed by AAC presidents and athletic directors during their annual fall meetings this week.
“We had another extremely productive meeting with our presidents and athletic directors this week in Philadelphia,” Commissioner Mike Aresco said in a statement. “There was a great deal of discussion about the future of our league and the momentum that we have created as we prepare for our new television/media agreement with ESPN beginning next year. There is enormous enthusiasm in the wake of the Conference’s increasing football, basketball and Olympic sport success and we will continue to energize and refresh our successful P6 campaign. We discussed the NCAA Board of Governors’ recent statement on name, image and likeness and we will be forming a conference working group to examine further that issue. We are all in agreement that this is a very complicated matter, and that preserving the amateur experience in a way that is fair to all student-athletes is of the utmost importance.”
The Heisman Trophy winner from Oklahoma first called attention to the issue after he was a walk-on at Texas Tech before eventually transferring to the Sooners and being placed on scholarship. Big 12 rules at the time stated Mayfield had to lose a season of eligibility as a result of the move but that was later amended to allow for such a scenario to happen without a player dropping a season. The Pac-12 and others have followed suit in recent years, with the AAC the latest at the Group of Five level to join the growing chorus.
In January, the NCAA also approved rules changes allowing walk-ons to transfer without penalty but many individual conferences had rules against doing so within their own league. That’s no longer the case in the AAC and others now as walk-ons finally get a measure of freedom that they didn’t have before.
UConn’s haphazard decision to jettison from AAC membership and embark on life as an FBS Independent starting in 2020 has resulted in a number of surprising dominoes getting pushed over across the country.
The Hartford Courant detailed one such move as the Huskies have attempted to cobble together their upcoming schedule for next season and it somehow involves a seven-figure check, an SEC program and a tiny Conference USA school:
As outlined in a contract, UConn will replace Middle Tennessee State on Mississippi’s 2020 schedule, while committing to host the Blue Raiders at some point (presumably also in 2020). As part of that deal, Mississippi will pay Middle Tennessee State $1.5 million, as the schools had originally planned, even though they won’t actually face each other. UConn will neither receive money from Mississippi nor pay anything to Middle Tennessee State.
Under different circumstances, UConn would likely receive more than $1 million to travel to Mississippi, then pay a smaller amount to get Middle Tennessee State to Rentschler Field. But given the need to build a 2020 schedule on short notice, scoring two games appears to have been worth a less lucrative return.
So Ole Miss will pay MTSU a hefty amount to not play in Oxford and in exchange get UConn in town for free. Got it?
The Huskies have confirmed nine games as part of next year’s slate and as the Courant alludes above, the pressing nature of their conference affiliation change has resulted in a potential short-term hit as everything gets sorted out. UConn will collect some $800,000 from games at Virginia, San Jose State and Illinois while dishing out nearly $1.2 million in guarantees to UMass, Indiana, Liberty, Army and FCS Maine.
It’s not often you see things like losing roughly $380,000 (and counting) on one’s schedule or having an opponent pay somebody else in order to not play the next season but UConn’s move to football independence has certainly resulted in more than a few unexpected dominoes falling as a result.
With its second first season as an FBS independent on the horizon, UConn is getting closer to wrapping up its slate for that next step for the program.
Thursday morning, UConn officially announced that it has secured agreements for nine games as part of its 12-game 2020 regular season. The announcement comes four months after UConn decided to leave the AAC following the 2019-20 academic year, moving its sports programs, with the exception of football, to the Big East.
The athletic department still has three games to fill in to complete its 2020 schedule. Additionally, the specific dates for two games, home against Maine and at Virginia, are still to be determined.
In at least one case, a school had to adjust its schedule to accommodate UConn’s fledgling independence voyage.
In a separate press release, Ole Miss announced that its game against Middle Tennessee State had been moved to Sept. 7, 2024. That game had originally been scheduled for Sept. 26 of next year.
“I would like to thank the many Universities that collaborated with us as we continue to work through the complicated process of constructing our schedule for the 2020 season,” UConn athletic director David Benedict said in a statement. “I feel that the schedule will be one that our football program and our fans can be excited about and I look forward to finalizing the 2020 schedule shortly.”
Bob Diaco may no longer be the head coach at UConn but his legacy of trying to build a rivalry with UCF lives on in the form of a seven-figure check.
The Hartford Courant reports that the soon to be independent Huskies have agreed to a 2021 game in Orlando with the Knights and that the program will receive a $1 million check as a result of the trip South for the non-conference meeting.
The two teams have played seven times since becoming fellow members of the AAC dating back to 2013, with UCF holding a 5-2 edge overall in the series. The Knights won the meeting in late September 56-21 and have dominated the Huskies the last few years.
Fans of both programs know there’s not much of a rivalry given the lopsided nature of the results but there have been attempts to stir things up, most notably by Diaco when he ran UConn and created a semi-serious (and unacknowledged in Orlando) trophy and named the game the ‘Civil ConFLiCT.’
At least things won’t end with September’s contest as the two teams continue to fill out their schedules. UConn will now have UCF on the docket in 2021 in addition to home games against FCS Holy Cross and Purdue plus road trips to UMass and Clemson. The Knights, meanwhile, host Boise State and travel to Louisville in the non-conference slate in addition to their regular rotation of AAC opponents.
Counting in college football is hard but at least the NCAA makes it easy to obtain a waiver to deal with such issues.
AAC commissioner Mike Aresco confirmed to reporters during a break in SMU’s victory over Temple on Saturday that the league has received the necessary waiver for the 2020 season to hold a conference title game despite having 11 members.
“It’s really a relief that this got done,” Aresco said, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. “The conference championship is so important to the league.”
The reason the AAC is in the position of needing to get a waiver is, of course, the result of UConn’s decision to re-join the Big East in most sports and try their hand at football independence starting next season. The conference has so far declined to pursue a new member to replace the Huskies, resulting in 11 football programs going forward unless they make significant changes this offseason.
NCAA rules dictate that conferences must have either 12 teams in multiple divisions or require a round-robin schedule in order to hold a league title game. The waiver allows the American to bypass the requirements and keep their existing contracts with ESPN in place going forward for such a game, resulting in a nice little windfall in addition to their standard broadcast contract with the world wide leader.
According to the Memphis Commercial Appeal, Aresco also confirmed that the league will abandon it’s two division format starting next season and that the top two teams in the conference will meet in the title game in a manner similar to the Big 12 — albeit with 11 teams instead of 10.
Like we said, it can be hard to count in college football but thankfully, there’s always a waiver from the folks in Indianapolis for that.