Cal AD Made The Right Move on Brennan Scarlett

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Doing the right thing isn’t always easy. Cal interim athletic director Michael Williams did the right thing this week when he allowed Golden Bears defensive end Brennan Scarlett to transfer to rival Stanford, where he will begin his postgraduate program.

Doing so opens him up to scrutiny that could impact the removal of “interim” from his title. But his is a choice more coaches and athletic administrators should follow.

Brennan Scarlett will be eligible to play in 2015 upon graduation from Cal’s business school. Should he stay healthy — a question mark for him after missing all of 2013, three games of 2012 and more than half of 2014 — Scarlett addresses an immediate need for Stanford.

The Cardinal are uncharacteristically thin on the defensive line, and at 100 percent, Brennan Scarlett is a talented pass rusher. But guiding Williams’ decision, in part, was who Scarlett would be joining on the Stanford roster next season.

Williams released a statement about Scarlett to media this week, reproduced partially below via the San Jose Mercury News:

“Cal athletics will support Brennan’s request…We are proud of his efforts in the classroom and on the field (especially having to battle back from the injuries he sustained during his playing career).

“Brennan is a young man with tremendous character and has represented our program well. We understand he has chosen to pursue his master’s degree at another university and play his final year of eligibility alongside his younger brother.

Cameron Scarlett is a running back and new addition to the Stanford lineup in the offseason.

Williams hits on other key points: Scarlett’s dedication to and sacrifice for Cal football, evident in his injuries; his success in the classroom. These are factors that deserve consideration above just how does this affect our football team in the conference championship race?

Williams opted for a path less traveled in college athletics. Intra-conference transfers are rarities. Transfers between rival programs are especially unique.

Frankly, most athletic directors and head coaches would bend over backwards to prevent such a move. Cal head coach Sonny Dykes’ apparent consternation with the loss of Scarlett to Stanford is comparatively docile to the vindictiveness transfers are sometimes shown.

So, had Williams and Dykes worked together to block Scarlett’s transfer, they certainly would have precedent on their side. The interim AD is likely to take some heat as a result, particularly from angry fans who, as the San Francisco Chronicle reported, vandalized Scarlett’s car.

But then, doing the right thing is sometimes going to be met with push-back.

Not every transfer situation should be treated equally. TCU blocking All-American caliber defensive lineman Devonte Fields from transferring to FCS Stephen F. Austin, for example, was justified. Fields was removed from TCU’s roster last summer after a domestic incident in which he allegedly pointed a gun at his girlfriend.

But in the case of a student-athlete and soon-to-be graduate like Brennan Scarlett, Cal’s Michael Williams hopefully set a new precedent.