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For once, a student-athlete is turning the NCAA on its head by using one of its own rules against itself.
It ain’t no fun when the rabbit’s got the gun.
D’Eriq King was the starting senior quarterback for the Houston Cougars coming off a junior season in which he accounted for 50 touchdowns. But as the team has gotten off to a 1-3 start this year, King has decided to redshirt the rest of the season, despite the 972 yards of total offense and 12 touchdowns he’s collected.
Houston wide receiver Keith Corbin and King will still be a part of the program, but won’t be playing in any more games this season as they’re “reportedly” set to return in 2020 due to a recent rule that allows them to play in four games without burning a redshirt year.
The Cougars best player, and preseason Heisman candidate, and their second-leading wide receiver have willingly decided to shut it down with 8 games left on the schedule.
Some think King will transfer to a different school. Others imagine he could be getting for ready the NFL. And even fewer believe that he will return next season, despite what he’s been saying.
“I’m staying here,” he said at a press conference on Tuesday. “I’m here. If I wanted to leave Houston and go somewhere else, I could’ve. It’s what I want to do. I think it’s the best opportunity for me. I don’t think anybody will reach out to me. Even if they do, they should know I’m staying.”
His coach even believes he’ll be back.
“All indications are he’s not going into the transfer portal,” said Houston coach Dana Holgorsen. “So if he’s not in the transfer portal, it’s kind of against NCAA rules and regulations to be pursuing that, so to speak. I’ve got no reason to believe … I’ve never got the impression that D’Eriq is leading me astray at anything the last nine months.”
As you can imagine, the pundits are losing it and the hot takes are scorching.
“I think it’s terrible for college football that guys who have played football are able to then decide to redshirt later,” said ESPN’s Joey Galloway. On the same show, David Pollack said that it was “no doubt” that King is quitting on his team. Kirk Herbstreit labeled it “the most bizarre thing.”
But, we should have all seen this coming. The clues have been right there.
Last season, Kelly Brant left Clemson after four games when he got benched for Trevor Lawrence. He’s now the starting quarterback at Missouri. The college football world was expecting Jalen Hurts to do something similar last season at Alabama, but Hurts decided to stick it out in Tuscaloosa, and is now the Heisman frontrunner at Oklahoma.
And over the past few seasons, we’ve seen top NFL prospects sit out of bowl games if their teams weren’t playing in the College Football Playoffs. In the last four years, the college football world has been forced to deal with young men that are making the best business decisions for themselves, instead of looking out for the team.
That whole “there is no ‘I’ in team,” mantra loses steam when the NCAA continues to filibuster the player compensation conversation.
It’s an awakening, and King is taking things to a new level.
In his four years at Houston, King’s had three head coaches. Tom Herman left. Major Applewhite was fired. And now Holgorsen is in charge. In two of those three situations, the coach had the opportunity to either willfully leave or choose Houston.
The way that the NCAA and collegiate sports are set up, the coaches are the ones with the power. But as we’ve seen, players are starting to understand just how powerful they are. Which is something King is doing even if he doesn’t realize it.
You could also make the argument that Houston needs King more than he needs them. The Cougars haven’t had a talent like King since Andre Ward became the first black quarterback to win the Heisman for Houston in 1989.
And while King needs to greatly improve his game if he ever wants to follow in Ward’s footsteps, don’t think for one second that other programs wouldn’t love to have him, and are hoping he reneges on his promise and puts his name in the transfer portal.
When LSU’s Leonard Fournette and Stanford’s Christian McCaffrey sat out bowl games after the 2016 season, other players soon followed their leads. And when Kelly Bryant left Clemson, it was impossible for Jalen Hurts to ignore it.
D’Eriq King has made his move. And only time will tell if he’ll stay at Houston, go somewhere else, or declare for the NFL Draft. But despite what his final decision is, his initial one is something more players should think about embracing.
Because if the NCAA wants to create these rules, it’s the players’ right to use them in your favor.