Why Kelly Bryant's decision to potentially transfer and avoid Mizzou's bowl ban isn't so obvious
When Kelly Bryant made his official visit to Mizzou on Oct. 27 as the Tigers hosted Kentucky, I’m assuming a strong pitch was made.
The Mizzou coaches probably told the Clemson transfer about the potential weapons he’d have to work with like Albert Okwuegbunam and Larry Rountree III. I bet they discussed the possibility of following in a potential first-round quarterback’s footsteps and playing in Derek Dooley’s quarterback-friendly offense. Mizzou coaches probably told Bryant about the $98 million renovation project to the south end zone of Faurot Field at Memorial Stadium.
You know what conversation probably didn’t come up during that visit or any other communication with Bryant? This one:
“Hey, we might be facing a bowl ban because one of our former tutors cheated for some football players. If that happens, you won’t be able to play in a bowl game during your lone season here, but you should totally still come here anyway.”
Bryant made the surprising decision to pick Mizzou. It’s partially why the Tigers were poised to start the year in the Top 25, despite the fact that they just lost their most prolific quarterback ever in Drew Lock.
Fast forward to Thursday when the NCAA dropped a bombshell that the Tigers will receive a 1-year postseason ban because of academic fraud. You can read the entire report here, but it basically details how a former Mizzou tutor completed coursework for several athletes, some of whom were football players.
Now, in a strange way, the ball is back in Bryant’s court. That’s what we found out after NCAA bylaw 14.7.2 hit the Twittersphere.
C) On the recommendation of the Committee on Infractions, for a student-athlete who transfers to a member institution to continue the student-athlete’s opportunity for full participation in a sport because the student-athlete’s original institution was placed on probation by the NCAA with sanctions that would preclude the institution’s team in that sport from participating in postseason competition during all of the remaining seasons of the student-athlete’s eligibility …
In other words, Bryant and other seniors are free to leave Mizzou without restrictions. Based on the knee-jerk reactions on social media, many seemed to believe that as long as there wasn’t anything standing in Bryant’s way of going back into the transfer portal, that would be his next move.
Maybe it is. Or maybe it isn’t. All I know is that it’s more complicated than that.
Early reports came out that Bryant plans to stay at Mizzou. Though as we know with these things, nothing is final until it’s final so it still makes sense to evaluate all angles of this decision.
On one hand, it would make obvious sense for him to leave. He left Clemson in the first place so that he could start elsewhere and get a chance to make a final impression on scouts before trying to make it as an NFL quarterback. If he can’t even play in the postseason, he’s missing out on a potential big stage when he could play elsewhere for a team with major postseason aspirations.
There’s also the concern of what a postseason ban would do to the skill players around him from a motivation standpoint. We’ve seen teams like Ole Miss, which won 5 games during bowl ban seasons. We’ve also seen teams like 2012 Ohio State, which went 12-0 in a bowl ban season.
Perhaps if Bryant feels like the Mizzou coaching staff withheld information about the possibility of a bowl ban — something we have no idea about — then perhaps he’d feel scorned and like he would want to transfer.
But at the same time, maybe Bryant wouldn’t want to go that route.
He already went through the transfer process, and after taking several official visits and talking to plenty of other schools, he picked Mizzou for a reason. Several reasons, really. The coaching staff isn’t changing, and neither is the system he chose to play in. The benefits of him getting to improve as a passer are still there.
And who knows? Maybe Mizzou’s seniors won’t have some whole-sale exit just because they can. We already found out from Mizzou athletic director Jim Sterk that the school is appealing the NCAA’s ruling. That can be a lengthy process that would perhaps force them to wait it out before jumping ship in the heat of the moment.
There’s something else to consider.
Did Bryant pick Mizzou because he was intrigued by the idea of playing in the Liberty Bowl? Let’s even get crazy and say that what if, hypothetically speaking, Mizzou has its best season in recent memory and makes it to a non-Playoff New Year’s 6 Bowl. Is that experience really going to make or break his decision? I’d question that. For all we know, Bryant could have even sat out Mizzou’s bowl game.
When you think about it, that’s not really a major setback for Bryant if everything else stays the same. There’s going to be 2.5 years of film on him, including an entire season of facing SEC defenses.
That’s all worth mentioning because immediately when the news dropped Thursday, schools that were finalists to land Bryant like Auburn and North Carolina had to be a little excited. On the surface, yeah, it’s a bummer that a high-profile quarterback would make a major decision like that to then later find out that the postseason isn’t even a possibility. Bryant could decide against the thought of not playing for anything more than his draft stock and pride.
It’ll be fascinating to see what Bryant’s next step is. In many ways, it could dictate the entire narrative for Mizzou’s 2019 season.
If he leaves and Mizzou is without a likely replacement for Lock — remember that TCU transfer Shawn Robinson must sit the 2019 season — then all of that preseason buzz about the Tigers being a sneaky SEC East contender will go by the wayside (or at least winning 10 games if the postseason ban ruling is upheld).
But if Bryant brushes off the postseason ban and decides to stick it out at Mizzou, then the Tigers will have an “us-against-the-world” mantra whether the appeal overturns the NCAA’s ruling or not.
Bryant surprised college football fans before. Maybe he’ll surprise them again.