Baker Mayfield eligible for OU in '17 after Big 12 OK's tweaked rule

ByJake Trotter ESPN logo
Friday, June 3, 2016

IRVING, Texas -- In a reversal from the day before, the Big 12 approved a rule proposal Thursday that will make quarterback Baker Mayfield eligible at Oklahoma for the 2017 season.

On Wednesday, the faculty athletic representatives voted down a rule that would have allowed walk-ons to transfer within the conference without losing a season of eligibility.

But Thursday morning, as reported earlier, the reps reconvened and considered a similar rule proposal with a slight change. Instead of allowing all walk-ons to transfer regardless, the reps amended the original proposal, allowing only walk-ons without written scholarship offers from their original schools to transfer without losing a season of eligibility. If the walk-on elected to transfer after being offered a scholarship from the original school, then the player would face the league's same eligibility restrictions that apply to scholarship players.

The amended proposal passed 7-3.

The rule had been prominently debated in the context of Mayfield, who transferred from Texas Tech after walking on his freshman year. Mayfield sat out the 2014 season before becoming the starting quarterback for the Sooners in 2015. He finished fourth in last season's Heisman Trophy voting after throwing for 3,700 yards and 36 touchdowns. He also guided the Sooners to a Big 12 title and an appearance in the College Football Playoff.

Had the rule change not been adopted, Mayfield would have been out of Big 12 eligibility after this season but would have been able to play his final season elsewhere, including in another Power 5 conference.

Shortly after the Big 12 announced the rule change, Mayfield weighed in on Twitter.

Oklahoma coach Bob Stoops and Sooners athletic director Joe Castiglione addressed Thursday's decision as well.

"I appreciate the Big 12 faculty athletics representatives spending more time studying the important issue of walk-on transfers and am pleased by the result of today's Big 12 vote -- not just because it potentially impacts Baker Mayfield, but because it was the right thing to do," Stoops said in a statement.

Said Castiglione: "Our view at Oklahoma is that non-scholarship student-athletes should have the right to transfer without losing a year of eligibility. ... With student-athlete welfare always on the front of our minds, today's decision was the appropriate one. I'm appreciative of the willingness of conference colleagues to consider -- and implement -- change that could benefit walk-ons in the future."

Wednesday's original rule proposal failed to generate the necessary majority to pass, receiving a 5-5 vote, which prompted Stoops to issue a statement later that night, calling for the league to "reconsider its decision."

Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby said the faculty reps weren't comfortable with the way the first vote turned out and asked to tweak the proposal. The opposition to the first proposal was centered on concern that without any restrictions, schools within the Big 12 would begin to recruit one another's walk-ons with the promise of scholarships.

"It was obvious there were mixed feelings about how it had come out," Bowlsby said. "That perhaps they hadn't taken into consideration all components."

The Big 12 will conclude meetings Friday with the presidents scheduled to convene in the morning.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.