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OU football: Lincoln Riley says in-conference transfers 'make the game worse,' explains hold on Chandler Morris to TCU

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Chandler Morris

Freshman quarterback Chandler Morris throws the ball during the game against Kansas on Nov. 7.

Allowing immediate eligibility to intraconference transfers goes against a core belief of OU’s Lincoln Riley and the rest of the program’s leadership, the head coach told reporters in a press conference Wednesday.

Riley’s stance on the subject was unveiled after he was asked about the ongoing situation with former Sooner quarterback Chandler Morris, who appeared in five games for OU during his lone season in 2020. Morris entered the transfer portal on Dec. 31 and announced his decision to play for TCU on Jan. 3.

However, in a March 22 press conference, Horned Frogs head coach Gary Patterson said Morris “still hasn’t been released by Oklahoma.” In response, Riley called the encouragement of intraconference transfers unhealthy for college football.

“This particular situation for us is about something that we believe in,” said Riley, whose Sooners are scheduled to host TCU on Oct. 16. “Players have the ability and freedom they should to go to any school they want. But, I do think intraconference (transfers) can complicate things. I think there’s a world of coaches that understand the big picture and understand that that’s gonna bring along a lot of negatives that I just don’t know you want in this game. That's something that we've been adamantly opposed to for a long time.”

Morris went 3-of-5 passing for 39 yards and had five rushes for 44 yards last season. During OU’s 27-21 win over Iowa State in the Big 12 Championship game, he scored the game’s first touchdown on a two-yard rush in goal line formation for the Sooners. The former three-star recruit also served as Oklahoma’s second-string quarterback in the Cotton Bowl following Tanner Mordecai’s transfer to SMU.

OU’s handling of Morris’ transfer is now the most recent public disagreement between Riley and Patterson. During OU’s 33-14 win over TCU in 2020, Patterson elected to use his final timeout after quarterback Spencer Rattler took a knee with 33 seconds left in the game. 

With the Sooners leading 30-14 at that point, that decision drew criticism from Riley, who later said his team was trying to end the game and prevent possible injuries for both sides. The two coaches also took opposing sides after quarterback Baker Mayfield threw a pass that hit a TCU player during pregame warmups in the school’s 2017 matchup.

This isn't the first time in Riley’s reign as OU head coach that a player has had issues transferring to a fellow Big 12 school. In 2019, Austin Kendall chose to grad transfer to West Virginia, but his request for immediate eligibility was blocked by Oklahoma. Yet, days later, Kendall’s transfer block was lifted by the program

Riley and company have also been on the receiving end of intraconference transfers. Famously, Mayfield transferred from Texas Tech to OU in January 2014, where he would go on to win a Heisman Trophy and lead the Sooners to two College Football Playoff appearances in his career. However, Mayfield was not granted immediate eligibility upon his transfer, forcing him to sit out Oklahoma’s 2014 season. The Sooners ended that year 8-5.

“You never want players to leave the program, but I know (Morris is) going to a good program there with Coach Patterson and I really do wish the kid all the best,” Riley said. “I don't believe that you should be able to transfer intraconference and be immediately eligible to play. I think we got to discourage that.

“When there’s something that we believe will make the game worse, I don't want to just do the politically correct thing every single time and just sit back and say, ‘OK.’ … I get that some people are going to agree with that (and) some people are going to disagree with that, but this is just a core belief that we have. Our plan is just to let this thing play and let some of these rules solidify, and we’ll be open to watching it and see how it unfolds.”

Chandler Engelbrecht is a journalism junior and the Daily's assistant sports editor. He currently covers OU football and has previously covered OU men's basketball, volleyball and men's gymnastics.

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