OLLER

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their ath­letic ca­reers at a school that of­fers grad­u­ate and sec­ond­de­gree cour­ses in an area of study not avail­able at their cur­rent school. For ex­am­ple, Player A wants to con­tinue grad work in marine bi­ol­ogy where he at­tended un­der­grad, but the school does not of­fer it, so he trans­fers and gains im­me­di­ate el­i­gi­bil­ity.

Ac­cord­ing to the NCAA, only one-half of 1 per­cent of all foot­ball play­ers were grad trans­fers in 2016, but the num­ber of cases in­creased from 17 in 2011 to 117 in 2016, which has prompted de­bate. The rule has come un­der scru­tiny by crit­ics who say its aca­demic in­tent has been twisted for ath­letic pur­poses by op­por­tunis­tic ath­letes and coaches who are fish­ing for grad­u­ated free agents.

I land on the other side of the ar­gu­ment. Grad­u­ated ath­letes de­serve to pur­sue their op­tions, hav­ing

ful­filled their aca­demic re­quire­ments, of­ten with hon­ors. Bur­row, a scholar-ath­lete, is on pace to grad­u­ate in June with a de­gree in con­sumer and fam­ily fi­nan­cial ser­vices, hav­ing fin­ished his un­der­grad­u­ate work in three years. Well done, achiever.

But Bur­row’s abil­ity to work the sys­tem to his ad­van­tage cre­ates com­pli­ca­tions for Ohio State coaches as they de­ter­mine whether he, red­shirt sopho­more Dwayne Hask­ins Jr. or — less likely — red­shirt fresh­man Tate Martell gets to start the Sept. 1 sea­son opener against Ore­gon State.

Sce­nar­ios to con­sider:

• Meyer meets with Bur­row in the com­ing weeks and en­cour­ages him to re­main at OSU, say­ing he un­der­stands the player’s frus­tra­tion but can­not prom­ise him a start­ing role be­cause the com­pe­ti­tion is too close to call. It would pain Bur­row to trans­fer — he said af­ter the spring game on Satur­day that leav­ing would dev­as­tate him — but he re­quires a stronger as­sur­ance of mean­ing­ful play­ing

time and opts to leave, hand­ing the start­ing job to Hask­ins, whose strengths in­clude a strong and ac­cu­rate pass­ing arm as well as hav­ing ral­lied the Buck­eyes to a win against Michi­gan last sea­son. In this sce­nario, Ohio State en­ters the fall with no ex­pe­ri­enced backup, and Hask­ins must stay healthy.

• Bur­row can trans­fer and play im­me­di­ately. Hask­ins’ op­tions are more lim­ited. He can trans­fer but would need to sit out a year, which cre­ates the in­ter­est­ing (and strate­gic) pos­si­bil­ity of Meyer telling Bur­row he would be the starter “if the sea­son be­gan to­day.” Meyer can jus­tify Bur­row as the bet­ter choice, based on lead­er­ship, run­ning abil­ity and the coach’s gut in­stinct. Plus, Hask­ins can still win the job back dur­ing fall camp. Meyer al­ways con­sid­ers team first, player a close but clear sec­ond. Bur­row stays and maybe starts. Hask­ins isn’t sure what to think.

• Bur­row learns later this spring he will be Hask­ins’ backup, but de­cides to stay any­way, know­ing he is one in­jury or sev­eral poor per­for­mances from tak­ing over as starter. A new school set­ting seems overly daunt­ing. And will he re­ally be promised a start­ing job else­where with­out go­ing through that school’s spring prac­tice? Plus, he can al­ways trans­fer af­ter the sea­son and be able to play right away in 2019, still fit­ting within the five-year par­tic­i­pa­tion win­dow set by the NCAA.

There’s quite a bit rid­ing on Bur­row’s de­ci­sion. I’m just glad he gets to make one.

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