Eastern Washington Coach Beau Baldwin Faces A Double-Edged Sword

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Eastern Washington head coach Beau Baldwin knows firsthand how much impact a transfer quarterback can have on a program.

With SMU quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell guiding the offense, Baldwin’s Eagles capped the 2010 season by winning the Football Championship Subdivision national title. That was the last championship claimed by a program other than North Dakota State.

With Vernon Adams back behind center in Chaney next season, Eastern Washington could well have book-ended the Bison’s historic run of four titles. With 2015 possibly culminating Adams’ illustrious, three-year career in a national title, Baldwin’s frustration in losing his quarterback a year early is understandable. And frustrated he is, as told to ESPN 700 in Spokane

Via ESPN.com:

“For the next four months, he can’t prep down there with them and he certainly can’t be in our weight room or throwing with our guys … and I talked to him about that,” Baldwin said. “I go, ‘What’s your plan for the next four months? How are you going to prepare for your senior year? I love you to death, but one, you’re moving on, and two, you’re moving on to who we’re playing in Week 1.”

Below is the full interview for context:

Adams could still be the focal point of a championship run, albeit in Oregon as the heir to 2014 Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota.

I have long been an opponent of NCAA transfer rules that mandate athletes sit out a season. The FBS-to-FCS exemption is a breath of fresh air in that it allows players seeking an opportunity to perform to do so without losing a year.

Bryan Bennett — coincidentally, the Oregon quarterback who lost out to Marcus Mariota in 2012 — thrived at Southeastern Louisiana. Bennett will likely be selected in this spring’s NFL draft.

This year’s FCS Championship Game featured former Indiana quarterback Tre Roberson in what would have been a heroic role had it not been for a defensive breakdown in the game’s final minute.

Mitchell won both the Walter Payton Award and national championship playing for Beau Baldwin at Eastern Washington. And, in a most unusual twist, his successor at Eastern Washington was Kyle Padron — the quarterback to whom Mitchell lost the starting job at SMU.

Given the prevalence of quarterback transfers from FBS to FCS, including within his own program, it’s easy to label Baldwin a hypocrite. This quote in particular could draw some ire:

I wish him nothing but the best in his senior season.

Adams is doing what’s best for him, continuing his career at the highest level of college football and with a better opportunity to draw attention from NFL scouts.

Sure, FCS prospects are taken despite playing at a lower division — the aforementioned Bennett being a sterling example — but for a quarterback under 6’0″ like Adams, playing Pac-12 competition, Michigan State and potentially making the College Football Playoff are to garner a lot more attention than running through the FCS a fourth time.

Now, the concern implied in Baldwin’s radio rant is that without consequence — like denying use of athlete facilities — FCS programs run the risk of becoming farm clubs the Power 5 can till for standouts when in need of an experienced player to plug into the lineup for a season.

This becoming standard is highly unlikely.

The circumstances of Adams’ transfer from Eastern Washington to Oregon are exceptional. Rare is the occasion when an FCS player moves up a division; it’s almost exclusively the other way around.

Also rare is a coach — any coach — allowing a transfer to a team on the schedule. Wyoming blocked the more-common FBS-to-FCS transfer of Oscar Nevermann to North Dakota last month, because the Sioux are on the Cowboys’ 2015 schedule.

Frankly, I find that practice a bit ridiculous. And, in this particular instance, one could point out that it’s the Eastern Washington defense benefiting from seeing a quarterback with whom it is intimately familiar.

Nevertheless, Adams is already a rare exception in two notable elements. The question then warrants asking: is he owed another exception, specifically the luxuries from Eastern Washington afforded to its student-athletes when he’s opting to no longer be an Eastern Washington student-athlete?