HORNING: Sooners do right by Kendall, just not from the start

Kyle Phillips / The Transcript

OU's Austin Kendall before the Sooners' game against Kansas State, Saturday, Oct. 27, 2018, at Oklahoma Memorial Stadium.

Apparently, it was not easy. However, in the end, Lincoln Riley, perhaps at the order of one of his bosses, or in a fit of common sense over pique or some convoluted sense of program interest, did the right thing.

The final word of the day may have come from Sooner athletic director Joe Castiglione, not Riley, who offered a statement to the Tulsa World.

“We think the world of Austin Kendall. He has the freedom to make whatever decision he believes is in his best interest,” Castiglione said. “He has been a terrific student athlete for the University of Oklahoma.”

The translation of which is Kendall, OU’s presumptive staring quarterback next season — until it became known that Jalen Hurts, as a graduate transfer from Alabama, might be in the Sooner football picture — may not only transfer anywhere he might choose, but that should he, his old program would not stand in the way of his becoming immediately eligible.

Also, the fact that the NCAA does not bar such standing in the way of graduate transfers becoming immediately eligible is ludicrous and the apparent fact that for some hours Wednesday OU appeared set to stand in Kendall’s way is even more ludicrous.

Let us be thankful the stain of that original position extended less than a day.

Also, for that matter, oh, what a day it was.

It began with OU seemingly, maybe, not having any presumptive starting quarterback for the 2019 season, as Kendall had entered the NCAA’s transfer portal a few days earlier.

Soon, reports spread that Hurts, indeed, was on his way to Norman.

However, simultaneously, it was being reported OU was going to play hardball with Kendall if he chose to transfer within the conference, to a place like, say, West Virginia.

Then, OU relented, Castiglione offered his comment and Kendall now appears headed to Morgantown.

Two quick thoughts:

One, Riley pulled a rabbit out of a hat with Hurts. When he’s not reinventing the regular recruiting process and the hoopla around signing day, he’s catching the biggest fish in the graduate transfer recruiting process. The man does seem to have a gift.

Two, Hurts’ arrival makes the Sooners the immediate Big 12 frontrunner yet again and perhaps a fave to return to the College Football Playoff.

Yes, they’ll be rebuilding an offensive line, yet if their under-new-leadership defense can even reach middle-of-the-road stature next season, they ought to be in the national hunt.

Finally, a not-so-quick thought … is it so hard to do the right thing immediately?

Is it so hard to see the wide angle even in a college football world that, as some have said, includes free agency for graduate transfers?

For a few hours Wednesday, OU looked ridiculous. For a little while, it appeared the Sooners were going to limit a student athlete from taking advantage of the choices afforded him upon graduating from college only three years after he’d graduated from high school.

That’s the thing.

Kendall only earned the option to transfer and play immediately because he graduated.

Bold facing news print never looks good, but just pretend the words “because he graduated” were not typed, but screamed.

Some players spend five years at their school and never graduate. Some use all five years of their eligibility to graduate and hurray for them. The fewer, the proud, do it in four — or in Kendall’s case, three — and thus earn every break.

They certainly don’t deserve an old coach running interference. Heck, making a non-graduate transfer wait a year to get back on the field is hard enough to defend in a world in which coaches routinely break their contracts and have for, give or take, a hundred years.

It’s been a wild offseason.

The Kyler Murray story continues to unfold. OU’s defensive braintrust continues to get a makeover. Now Hurts is headed to Norman and Kendall is leaving Norman.

It’s enough to make your head swim. Yet, that’s better than making it hurt.

Had OU maintained it’s petulant stance, heads would be hurting.

Thankfully, Riley, or somebody in his ear — Joe C., hello? — got it right.

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