All across athletics, at both the collegiate and professional level, we are seeing athletes take ownership of their rights and themselves in a way that had eluded them to this point. At the professional level, hold outs, trade demands, and contract disputes litter the news cycle - from what Le’Veon Bell did a year ago in sitting out an entire season, top what Jalen Ramsey is doing now - staying home ‘sick’ - while awaiting the Jags to send him packing. Collegiately, the transfer portal and California’s recently passed “Fair Pay to Play” act has opened doors for the 18-22 crowd in a way we had yet to previously witness.
The times, as they say, are a changing.
This new era of player empowerment - where the folks bringing in the buckets of cash are actually getting a say - is frightening to coaches and administrators, especially those of the “old school” variety. Time and time again, you hear “it will change the game as we know it,” “it will kill college programs,” “we don’t want college free agency,” and the like from those sitting in their luxury suites high above the blood, sweat, and tears. Even TCU’s Athletic Director, Jeremiah Donati, said the California act makes him nervous, elaborating with “this could potentially destroy everything we know and love about college sports. I am absolutely a huge opponent of it.”
Nervous or not, changes are coming.
And we saw a big one, in that regard, earlier this week.
On Monday, Houston quarterback (and one time TCU commit) D’Eriq King announced his decision to sit for the rest of the season and maintain his redshirt rule, after the Cougars got off to a disappointing 1-3 start. King had a huge junior season, passing for nearly 3,000 yards and adding another 674 on the ground, accounting for 50 total touchdowns combined. But the 5’11”, 195 QB was regressing early in 2019, thanks to his third coach in three seasons and an all-around rebuild on both sides of the ball. Completing just 52.7% of his passes and running for his life (already 312 yards on 55 attempts with 12 sacks), King was headed from Heisman contender and NFL prospect to the injury list as Houston limped out of the gate.
That’s when he made the decision to take a seat.
“I came here to play football for the University of Houston and that’s not changing. After carefully thinking through this process with my family and Coach Holgorsen, I have decided the opportunity to redshirt this season gives me the best chance to develop as a player, earn my degree and set me up for the best success in the future. I’m looking forward to being a part of the success of this program going forward.”
Joining King is senior wide receiver Keith Corbin, who had 11 catches for 192 yards and two scores through the first four games. He echoed King’s statement, speaking of his commitment to Houston and desire to earn his degree. It looks, from the outside, like both are sitting out and hoping for greener pastures in 2020.
The questions remains though, will those pastures be in Houston?
After redshirting, both players could return to the Cougars for their fifth season or elect to transfer elsewhere - and be immediately eligible. Big 12 fans are probably quite nervous thinking of D’Eriq in Crimson and Cream, as a fourth straight graduate transfer to enter Lincoln Riley’s system.
There’s another question, too - will other players follow suit?
Most players arrive on campus hoping to play immediately, something that is able to happen more now thanks to the four game redshirt rule. We have seen players enter the transfer portal by the dozen when they aren’t happy, when they lose a starting job, when there is a coaching change... or when they just want to move on. The thought of a player voluntarily taking a seat for an entire season — and staying — seems almost unbelievable.
I doubt King starts a trend this season... most players with his kind of talent want to get in, get on the field, and get out and to the NFL. His decision shows a maturity not often seen by young people of that age. Some will argue that he’s letting his teammates and his program down, but you can also say that he’s making a sacrifice for them - to hang on for a year when they have a chance to win something of meaning.
D’Eriq King won’t play again in 2019. And that is probably the best thing that could happen to Houston and Dana Holgorsen.