As Oliver Martin waits to learn his fate, the NCAA should change its rule about transfers

Iowa receiver Oliver Martin meets with reporters at media day. Photo by Tyler Devine

By Pat Harty

IOWA CITY, Iowa - Maybe the late, great Tom Petty was way ahead of his time when he wrote his popular song “The Waiting” that was released in 1981.

The song, which peaked at No. 19 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart, featured the famous line, “the waiting is the hardest part” as part of its chorus.

Petty’s song certainly fits in the case of Iowa receiver Oliver Martin, who is waiting for the NCAA to rule on his appeal to play this season after having transferred from Michigan earlier this summer.

Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz was asked about Martin’s situation at media day on Aug. 9, but Ferentz had very little to say about a timetable for a decision.

“I really haven't had much involvement in it,” Ferentz said. “That's handled by the compliance folks. So they're the ones that are on the ground floor there. As I understand it, it's been forwarded to the NCAA, and what happens thereafter, probably no way to predict, like most things that go that direction.

“We'll just kind of wait patiently and see where it goes. But Oliver doesn't have any information, I have no information, so right now we'll just kind of wait and see how it all goes.”

Ferentz went on to say that he thought that Iowa had submitted its appeal within the previous two weeks.

Ferentz also told reporters at Big Ten media day on July 19th in Chicago that Martin already had hired an attorney to assist with the appeal process.

So if that is the case, at least three weeks to a month have passed, and yet, Martin still is waiting to learn if he can play this season, which starts in less than two weeks with Iowa hosting Miami of Ohio in the season opener on Aug. 31 at Kinnick Stadium.

And while three weeks to a month might not seem like a long time, try telling that to Martin, whose playing status right now is in limbo.

And try telling that to the Iowa coaches who have no way of knowing if Martin will be eligible to play this season.

“The case is what it is and now it’s kind of out of my hands, it’s external,” Martin said at Iowa's media day. “They’re going to make a decision. It makes me a little anxious knowing it could go either way but I’m hopeful for getting my eligibility. I just know it’s out of my hands at this point.”

In fairness to the NCAA, there is no way of knowing how many other appeals were submitted before Martin filed his appeal because almost everything dealing with the NCAA  is wrapped in secrecy.

The NCAA supposedly handles these kinds of cases in the order in which they were received, but even that is uncertain.

Players are transferring at a staggering rate these days in football and men’s basketball, so it could be that the NCAA is knee-deep in appeals and they’ll get to Martin’s case when they get to it.

But there is a simple way to avoid this waiting game and that would be to allow a student-athlete to transfer one time without having to sit out.

The naysayers will say that this goes against the model in which the student comes before the athlete.

But if that truly were the case, then there wouldn't be a one-and-done rule in men's basketball, and games wouldn't be played every day of the week with late-night starting times in football and men's basketball simply to appease television. Money comes first in this day and age and you're fooling yourself to think otherwise.  

Coaches come and go all the time with no strings attached, so it seems only fair that a student-athlete should be given one chance to switch schools without having to sit out for an entire season

Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh endorsed that argument at Big Ten media day when asked about Martin leaving his program.

Harbaugh then issued a statement on Twitter shortly thereafter in which he explained his thinking.

“As asked multiple times yesterday at Big Ten Media Day, I offered an opinion,” Harbaugh wrote. “My belief is that a one-time transfer should be allowed for all student-athletes. I am clearly advocating for rights that college football players have not had."

Harbaugh also believes that a year of no competition should be required for undergraduates transferring for a second time, and that seems fair and reasonable.

Every student-athlete who meets the eligibility standards should be given one chance, or as some like to say, one mulligan, to transfer without having to sit out for an entire season.

Picking a college to attend is a difficult decision and recruits sometimes make what turns out to be the wrong decision for them.

Martin has declined to say why he chose to leave Michigan, but the fact that he is from Iowa City was probably a factor in his decision to transfer to Iowa.

This isn’t to say that Martin was homesick at Michigan, but there is a certain appeal to attending the school for which you grew up cheering as a home-town kid.

Iowa is the only school that can offer that luxury to Martin, who graduated from Iowa City West in 2017.

“It’s really great,” Martin said. “I’m happy being home, I really liked Iowa City, I liked growing up here, I liked this community and I liked the tradition at the University of Iowa. It’s something I want to be a part of. I’ve got a lot of my friends that I grew up with here, a lot of them go to Iowa. There’s a lot of great guys on the team so I feel like it’s a good fit. I’m really happy here.”

My hunch is that Martin will win his case, partly because he has hired an attorney and because he transferred to the school in his hometown. It also probably doesn't hurt that Martin was listed as a starter when he left Michigan because it shows that he didn't just leave over playing time. 

Martin deserves a second chance without being penalized, and without having to wait for the NCAA to finally get to his case.

The NCAA spends so much time and energy evaluating these cases when it doesn’t have to if would just allow a one-time transfer rule.

A second transfer should have consequences because there has to be some checks and balances to prevent student-athletes from always bailing at the first sign of disappointment.