Fuente Takes a Page From Edsall’s Book
By Paul Myerberg // May 29, 2012
While an announcement has yet to be made, it’s been a foregone conclusion since midway through spring ball that Memphis was going to hand its starting quarterback job over to former Texas Tech transfer Jacob Karam.
The Tigers returned an incumbent starter in sophomore Taylor Reed, who stood as one shining light of positivity during an otherwise dismal conclusion to Larry Porter’s disastrous two-year turn as Memphis’ head coach, but Porter’s replacement, former T.C.U. co-offensive coordinator Justin Fuente, clearly brought in Karam — who was immediately eligible to suit up for the Tigers — to not merely compete for the starting job but to take it away from Reed outright.
So, the logic goes, Fuente should have had an inkling that Reed, a true sophomore, might want to lead his playing career in a new direction. Therefore, it stands to reason that Fuente’s line of thought rolled in this direction: Reed’s transferring, so here’s another chance for me to place my stamp on this program.
Translated into common sense: When overthinking goes wrong for a first-year, first-time head coach.
As noted by Phil Stukenborg of The Commercial Appeal, Fuente has placed in Reed’s path a no-transfer list of Edsallian proportion:
“Scott Reed, Taylor’s father and the former head coach at Bartlett High,” wrote Stukenborg, “said the release prevents Taylor from transferring to a program in Conference USA or the Big East and also prohibits releasing him to several area schools, including Ole Miss, Arkansas State and Middle Tennessee.”
The no-transfer list also includes future Memphis opponents Duke and Missouri, which are slated to meet the Tigers in 2013 and 2015, respectively. Surprisingly, Fuente has not stated that he will prevent Reed from transferring to Miami (Fla.), an opponent in 2014 and 2015, nor Kansas, a scheduled non-conference opponent in 2015.
Fuente’s rationale for the wide no-transfer restrictions is that today, Memphis is part of Conference USA. Tomorrow — or next fall — Memphis will be part of the Big East. Mississippi and Arkansas State are on the list because of their geographic proximity to the program. Middle Tennessee State is a non-conference opponent in each of the next three seasons.
Reed’s father, a former head coach at high schools in Arkansas and Tennessee, raises the most pressing question: “He didn’t understand why the university would deny his son an opportunity to attend a [Conference USA] program since the Tigers won’t be a league member in 2013,” wrote Stukenborg.
View Reed’s transfer in a bubble. Head coaches can take one of three stances with a potential transfer, even one at a position as key as quarterback: hard, medium and soft. The hard-line stance is the one Fuente is taking with Reed, the one stolen right out of Randy Edsall’s playbook with former Maryland quarterback Danny O’Brien: you’re hurting the program by leaving, so in a way, this is payback.
There’s the medium approach: I’m not going to allow you to hurt us in the future. Therefore, your transfer cannot lead to a future opponent over the remainder of your eligibility clock. For Reed, who can sit out this season and retain three additional seasons of eligibility, this would mean that Memphis’ no-transfer list would include the entire Big East and all non-conference foes through the 2015 season.
Then there’s the soft, easy, confident approach: you can’t play in our conference, but all else is fair game. Goodbye, and good luck. It takes a comfortable, certain and assured head coach to make this move — it takes the anti-Fuente, a rookie head coach making up rules as he goes along.
At some point, head coaches on the F.B.S. level will do the math and realize that there’s nothing to be gained from creating overly restrictive no-transfer lists.
Here’s one equation: Karam wasn’t good enough to play at Texas Tech — or play meaningful snaps, at least — yet stands as the best option for Memphis, one of the worst programs in college football; Reed’s an afterthought in Fuente’s offense, meaning he shouldn’t be a future worry regardless of where he transfers. Right?
The negative publicity far outweighs anything Fuente or Memphis could gain from limiting Reed’s future transfer options. This is ammunition for local rivals on the recruiting trail. It does nothing for Memphis between the white lines, where the program needs all the help it can get. It only mars Fuente’s approval rating.
There is nothing to be gained from forcing Reed to drop down to the F.C.S. or transfer to a program outside of his comfort zone, thereby waylaying a somewhat promising college career. That Fuente is hurting Reed doesn’t seem to matter to the rookie head coach; that he’s hurting Memphis should, though it doesn’t seem as if he’s taking that under consideration.
“It is frustrating,” said Reed’s father. There’s no doubting that. Also frustrating: Fuente’s misguided belief that Reed could come back to haunt Memphis. Fuente should understand that one transfer to a school not in Memphis’ league or on its non-conference schedule isn’t going to impact the Tigers’ bottom line; Memphis is losing games on its own just fine, thank you very much.
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