Last month, in a stunning move, Baker Mayfield decided to transfer from Texas Tech despite winning the starting quarterback job in the preseason as a walk-on true freshman.
Mayfield, who also started Texas Tech’s regular-season finale against Texas, had initially vaguely cited a “miscommunication” with coach Kliff Kingsbury as the reason.
Just as stunning, Mayfield later revealed he would be enrolling at Oklahoma, which in the spring will have five scholarship quarterbacks, including freshman Trevor Knight, who was named MVP in the Allstate Sugar Bowl victory over Alabama.
Even though he was a walk-on at Texas Tech, Mayfield is still bound by NCAA transfer rules, and the Red Raiders have not granted him a release to transfer within the conference. Under Big 12 and NCAA rules, if Mayfield transferred to Oklahoma anyway, not only would he have to sit out a year, but he would lose a season of eligibility.
Mayfield, however, is hoping this week Texas Tech will grant his appeal to be eligible right away.
In an interview with ESPN.com Wednesday evening, Mayfield went into more detail about why exactly he left Texas Tech; and why now he wants to go to Oklahoma, even though the Sooners seem to have their quarterback of the future in Knight:
Jake Trotter: What was the reason that you decided to leave Texas Tech after being the starting quarterback to end the regular season?
Baker Mayfield: Well, a lot of things played into it. It was over time. When I got hurt [Week 5 at Kansas], there was no communication between me and my coach [Kingsbury]. When I got healthy, I didn’t know why I wasn’t playing right away. At that time, we were losing a couple games in a row. I was still clueless as to why I wasn’t playing. That was really frustrating for me because I started the first five games and we won. So, I just didn’t really know exactly what he was thinking or what the situation was. So that happened. And then going from a week-to-week basis not knowing whether I was going to play or not and how short the leash would be if I had an average half, how quickly I would be pulled or anything like that. It was making me uncomfortable, and I just didn’t want to be there anymore. I loved Lubbock and I loved my teammates. But going through that and then them tell me they’re still working on a scholarship for next fall, and I wouldn’t have one for this semester coming up. It was all that.
Trotter: So they told you they wouldn’t have a scholarship for you in the spring, either?
Mayfield: Exactly. They said they were still working on one for next fall.
Trotter: Was that the final straw for you?
Mayfield: I mean that was kinda leading up to it, yes. Then after the Texas game on Thanksgiving, the next week we went in, I was splitting second-team reps after starting on Thanksgiving. I still had no idea what was going on. I’d just had enough at that point.
Trotter: So after the Texas game, you were splitting second-teams behind Davis Webb?
Mayfield: Michael [Brewer] was going first. I don’t know if he [Kingsbury] did that by age, but there was no explanation for why he was doing it. Right when we started our first bowl practice, right before the practice, he [Kingsbury] said it was a straight-up competition and that was how they were going to determine the starting quarterback. I didn’t think that was really fair. I’m not one to be afraid of competition at all because I’ve gone through that my whole life at Lake Travis [Mayfield’s high school], too, and when I got to Tech. But I didn’t think that was fair because I had done my job when I had gotten the opportunity. I mean, I thought I needed more of a chance, and I wasn’t getting it. And they were splitting the reps equally so that was the last straw.
Trotter: So when you told Coach Kingsbury, what was his reaction and what was that conversation like?
Mayfield: I mean, he was shocked, although he was quoted saying he knew one of the quarterbacks was going to transfer. He was shocked to think it was me leaving. And he was saying how he had been behind me the whole time. I had no idea because of the miscommunication and the lack of communication, really. And not knowing what he was thinking. I mean, if you gave me another chance to go through it again, I still wouldn’t think he was behind me, and I was his guy the whole time. I know he did give me the opportunity to start in the first place, and I’m thankful for that. I worked my butt off to get there, and I thank for him for taking a chance on me -- starting a walk-on quarterback. But after that, when he was rotating us, there was no explanation.
Trotter: So do you feel like it was a lack of communication more than a miscommunication, which is the word you had used when you first decided to transfer?
Mayfield: Yeah, I would say that.
Trotter: What was the reaction of your teammates when you told them?
Mayfield: They understood. All the guys I loved and had gone through all those tough times with, they understood completely. They supported me. And I got nothing but good wishes from them. All of them, including all of the quarterbacks, understood.
Trotter: What was it like watching the National University Holiday Bowl on TV, or did you even watch it?
Mayfield: Oh, I watched all of it. I was so proud of them. I knew Arizona State was going to be a good team, but they just blew [it] out of the water. I was jumping up and down in Austin, Texas for those guys.
Trotter: OK, so you decide to leave Tech, were there any other schools you looked at?
Mayfield: I mean, yes, there were. I got some calls from places Tech had to released me to, but I wasn’t that interested.
Trotter: Who were some of those schools?
Mayfield: East Carolina, Houston -- just some other schools that kinda talked to me back in high school, but nothing I was ever really interested in.
Trotter: So it seemed like OU was the one school you had in mind when you decided you were going to transfer, correct?
Mayfield: Yes. Out of high school, I applied to three schools right off the bat: Oklahoma, TCU and I think Tech was the third. But I didn’t really want to go to Tech until late in the spring of my senior year. Oklahoma and TCU were my first two options coming out of high school. That’s where I wanted to go. And I wasn’t going to give TCU another chance after they basically screwed my whole recruiting over from the start [TCU recruited Mayfield but never offered a scholarship]. So OU was where I’ve always wanted to go. I grew up an Oklahoma fan. I used to go to all the games watching a bunch of people who are in the NFL now.
Trotter: How do you become an OU fan in Austin?
Mayfield: That’s what a lot of people ask. I never really was a big fan of Texas, and when I traveled to OU games -- because my dad used to play and old coaches would give us tickets -- me at six years old to 12 -- I used to go to like two games a year before hitting high school football. I just grew up a fan. Then one of my best friends is Garrett Gilbert. When I watched him go through all of that at Texas, it just made me just absolutely hate what they did to him and watching fans boo a 20-year-old kid off the field, it was just terrible.
Trotter: So, have you talked to any OU coaches at all?
Mayfield: Not at all.
Trotter: Have you talked to any OU players?
Mayfield: I mean I know Trevor Knight, but not really. I congratulated a couple of them after the Sugar Bowl.
Trotter: So you’re just going to show up at OU and just show up for football practice -- is that the plan?
Mayfield: Well, I’m still waiting on my appeal, which is happening this Friday.
Trotter: You’re doing the appeal on your own. OU is not handling that, correct?
Mayfield: Correct. They can’t handle it because Texas Tech has blocked my communication to any Big 12 schools. And so, that’s what we’re having to deal with. The appeal will decide whether I can join the football team and also eligibility-wise and everything that involves football.
Trotter: So if they deny your appeal, what does that mean?
Mayfield: I haven’t thought about that, because I think I have a good case, and I think I should have a chance because I walked on to Texas Tech, I didn’t have anything paid for; I was not recruited. I just knew people at Texas Tech [and said] I’m just going to go to school there and have fun and go out for the football team.’ That’s what I did, and it wound up working out perfectly for me. And so, for them to have the final say as to where I can go for my future, it’s kinda ridiculous in my mind because they didn’t pay for anything, and I didn’t even have a scholarship promised to me for this next semester. So I don’t know what’s going to happen, but I’m hoping for the best for my own sake.
Trotter: If the appeal is denied, will you look at other schools since you won’t be eligible?
Mayfield: Yeah, I probably would, but I don’t know.
Trotter: But if they do grant the appeal, you will be going to OU?
Trotter: I think people are confused by your decision to go to OU because you have somebody like Trevor Knight who seems pretty entrenched after that Sugar Bowl, and they have four other quarterbacks on scholarship. Why would you go to OU when you’d have a better chance of playing if you went somewhere else?
Mayfield: I know what they’re thinking. Trevor played phenomenal in the Sugar. He beat Alabama, which had arguably the top defense for five years in a row. Yeah, they can say that. But I’m not scared of competition at all. I like Trevor. He’s a nice guy. And I know Blake Bell is a big dude and has some good ability. I watched from the sideline [as he] beat us. He played one of his best games against Texas Tech. But I mean, I’m not scared of that at all. It’s not just about the football, too. Oklahoma is just a better academic opportunity as well. It’s just a better school. It’s just a better opportunity for me at this point.
Trotter: So this isn’t strictly a football decision for you? Is that what people don’t understand?
Mayfield: Exactly. I left Texas Tech because of the football. and that was frustrating to me. I had to get out of there as soon as possible before all of Lubbock erupted on me. I got out of there. Now it’s about finding a place to settle in and get comfortable. OU is a place that’s familiar to me.