#FREECM4 is a hashtag you might have seen if you follow many TCU-related football personalities on the social media platform Twitter. I hate Twitter. I find the platform clunky and difficult to use, and when it debuted last year, or maybe the year before, I thought it would go the way of the Dodo as quickly as Parler actually has. Well, the tweeters have obviously shown me. Note: I’m not the guy to skim stock tips from.
If you saw the aforementioned tag and were confused, it refers to Chandler Morris and his jersey number, 4. Morris is a former Oklahoma Sooner who played third-string quarterback last season as a freshman behind starter Spencer Rattler and backup Tanner Mordecai. Morris transferred to Fort Worth and has been on campus during spring semester. There are two potential problems with his eligibility moving forward. One, he needs a waiver from the NCAA to play next season. Two, OU needs to release him from his national letter of intent since he transferred as a frosh.
If the Morris name sounds familiar to Texas football fans, it should. His dad, Chad Morris, has had a long coaching career spanning from his first head coaching job at Eustace High School, which is about an hour and a half east of Dallas, to college, which included recent stints as head honcho at SMU and Arkansas and, most recently, coaching with his buddy Gus Malzahn as the offensive coordinator at Auburn before the entire staff was terminated. The younger Morris is a product of Highland Park High School, and, as a recruit, he was a three-star dual-threat prospect who is of similar size and stature to current Frog QB Max Duggan. A new quarterback arrival always breeds excitement, even if the possibility of them actually contributing onfield is somewhat questionable.
Morris is only one year Duggan’s junior and is sporting a similar skillset, so the expectation is that he’d be a backup as long as Mad Max can stay healthy with a possibility of starting several seasons down the road. However, Sooner Head Coach Lincoln Riley and the University of Casino-Homa have doubled down on their pontifications that releasing Morris from his letter of intent would send the wrong message to college football in general. The Sooners — who are named for cheating frontiersman, by the way — assert that anything done to aid in the regular intraconference transfer of football players would be leading the sport to ruin, and there was probably something about socialism in there, too. I know that moralistic grandstanding and outright hypocrisy are something we in the Bible Belt are great at, but this takes it to another level. Bob Stoops and Oklahoma didn’t bat an eyelash when crotch-grabbin’ Baker Mayfield transferred from Texas Tech, but I digress. The real issue is twofold: Why is Oklahoma scared? And why is the conference committed to mediocrity?
I know, saying that Oklahoma — a school that has won our conference football title more times recently than I care to confirm — is scared seems like a stretch, but Riley is supposed to be the quarterback whisperer. Why does he even care? Morris wasn’t in position to be a factor on Oklahoma’s depth chart for years, and they seem to bring in someone better in each recruiting cycle. Is the Big 12 actually mediocre? Yes. Unequivocally, the Big 12 conference is pitiful in the modern era. The college football playoff has existed for seven years, and Oklahoma is the only Big 12 school to ever advance to a semifinal, and there have been zero wins. Oklahoma managed one championship 20 years ago during the BCS era. Texas and quarterback Vince Young shocked USC 15 years ago, and that was the last time any member of our conference could claim they were the best in the land. In the modern era — since 2000 — the Big 12 and Big 10 are tied for fewest championships, but the northern conference has won a title more recently. The ACC — which has won three titles in that period — has already rescinded their previous rule regarding the requirement for intraconference transfers to sit for a year before gaining eligibility. The SEC has stated they’re considering removing their rule as well. The Big 12 should do the same, because it can’t afford to do anything that might make it less competitive or attractive to recruits than other conferences the Big 12 already so clearly lags behind.
Morris will be fine whether he can play next year or not. The Highland Park native is not likely needing an NFL paycheck to live a prosperous adult life or to care for his family, but many collegiate players are betting everything on just that, and most won’t have anything to show for it when they’re done. Why would we, as fans, or institutions retain or install barriers to their ability to play in collegiate games? It’s time the cards are laid on the table and we admit that college football isn’t some high school game where players commit themselves because of the values of the school or coaches or hometown pride. They’re playing minor league football in hopes of spinning success into a paying career because there really aren’t other paths forward. Football is unique in this respect in that there’s no farm system, Olympics, or opportunities for international or professional play that would lead to an NFL career. If you want to play in the NFL, you play NCAA football, and you don’t make a dime.
Before every net troll spouts off about the value of the college education they receive, just stop now. The scholarships are a pittance, a stipend, for the millions of dollars the players generate in ticket revenue, licensing, and prestige — see: applications — for their universities. No other undergraduate student generates the level of real-time revenue for their university than a football athlete from a major university. A business student on scholarship might strike it big and give back, but that’s buying a low-yield index fund hoping market growth generates a modest return years down the road. College football is day trading, schools see the money right away, and, in large part, their players receive the scholarship as a consolation for the sacrificing of their time and physical health. Oklahoma, and every fan or administrator who wants to lock potential players into a school they don’t or won’t play at, should save their fake morality for something like boycotting Satan’s Nikes or signing a petition requiring the Dallas Mavericks to play the National Anthem before games.