ARLINGTON, Texas – If Oklahoma coach Lincoln Riley could re-live his standoff with quarterback Austin Kendall in January, it turns out he would do things exactly the same way.
Riley maintained his position that he does not think Kendall should have immediate eligibility for West Virginia even though Kendall completed his undergraduate degree at Oklahoma.
“I was always going to let him going to West Virginia,” Riley said. “My contention was being able to have him immediately eligible the next year. I don’t think that’s healthy for the league.”
NCAA rules mandate that an undergraduate player has to sit out a season to acclimate to his new surroundings unless he receives a waiver. A player enrolling in graduate school at another university is able to play immediately, though.
Oklahoma itself will benefit from that rule this season thanks to quarterback Jalen Hurts, whose transfer from Alabama is what prompted Kendall to leave the Sooners in the first place. But Riley views Hurts differently since he came from the SEC rather than the Big 12.
“We’ve got to protect our league with that and that’s something we need to look further on,” Riley insisted.
Riley said the only reason he relented is out of the respect he has for Kendall and his family.
“In the end my relationship with Austin’s family, the personal side overtook the business side,” Riley said. “My views haven’t changed. But in that moment I wanted to do the best thing for the kid.”
Respect for Kendall is a running theme amongst the Sooners. His former Oklahoma teammates are a bit more ecstatic for his opportunity to start at West Virginia than Riley was.
“He’s an extremely self-motivated player and an extreme competitor,” said Sooners center Creed Humphrey. “For him to potentially be a starter there is awesome. I’m so excited for him.”
All-conference receiver CeeDee Lamb has caught plenty of passes from Kendall over the past two seasons, and credits him with being instrumental in his own growth.
“Austin is not a yes-man, but he’s definitely going to be there when you need him,” Lamb said. “I’m forever grateful for him and the memories that we had. I feel like he’s going to be the best that he can be at West Virginia.”
Humphrey considered Kendall one of his best friends on the team, so he says it will be very strange to be on the opposite sideline when the Mountaineers visit on Oct. 19.
“It will be awesome,” Humphrey said. “But it will be a weird feeling.”