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Grip on sports: NCAA rule gives athletes like Vernon Adams a brighter spotlight

Thursday: Once a player enrolls in a college, he’s no longer being recruited right? After all, when a prospective student-athlete (as the NCAA calls recruits) signs a letter of intent, the recipient of that letter can speak about him or her as much as they want.

The recruiting process, under NCAA rules, is over. And after that student-athlete has been on campus for two, three, four years and has played, oh, I don’t know, 35 football games, you would think the recruiting process is a thing of the past.

 You would think.

 And you would be wrong.

For evidence I present one Vernon Adams, the most prolific touchdown passer in Eastern Washington University football history.

Twice the Walter Payton runner-up, his senior year awaits. Except it may not be in Cheney. See, Adams redshirted as a freshman. He’s on track to graduate in June. But that also makes him a free agent of sorts. And, weirdly, a recruitable athlete again.

The NCAA instituted a rule a few years back, a rule with the best of intentions. Any athlete who has graduated and still has eligibility remaining can transfer and play without sitting out, as long as the new school has a postgraduate program his or her old school didn’t offer.

A noble idea to reward good students.

At first there was a trickle of athletes that took advantage. But now it’s a flood. Heck, Gonzaga’s basketball team has been a recipient recently, with Drew Barham coming in from Memphis and, this season, Byron Wesley from USC.

Adams will graduate in June. He has a year of football left. And the University of Oregon needs a quarterback. Heisman Trophy winner Marcus Mariota is leaving for the NFL. The other quarterbacks on the Duck roster aren’t, presumably, up to snuff. So the Bat Signal was lit. And Vernon Adams may just respond.

He has heard, thus far, what he wanted to hear. He’s going to explore the option. And why not? The Ducks, a proud subsidiary of Nike, Inc., are on TV every week. Not Root or a local station but ESPN or ABC or Fox or some other nationwide broadcast not including homes with DirectTV. Oregon quarterbacks appear on Mel Kiper’s draft board regularly. So what if they rarely pan out? They are in the NFL conversation long before the combine.

Will Adams transfer? Stay tuned. He would be leaving a lot behind, mainly friends and teammates he’s spent hours and hours with the past four years. Guys who have followed his lead as they’ve worked to win the elusive FCS title. People who bought what Vernon Adams was selling when he asked for one more lift, one more throw, one more rep. Those guys might be tougher to abandon than you think.

But Oregon, with all its glitz, glamour and glory, is an opportunity too special to pass by without at least an examination.

Wednesday: Super Bowl Media Day is officially the worst day in American sports. Everything that is wrong with our sporting culture is on display. It is also the worst-named day in American sports. Instead of “Media Day” it should be called “Marketing Day.”

OK, I will admit the American media is part of the charade, the circus, the one-act play. I don’t know why, but it is.

I know why the Nickelodeons, the MTVs and the Telemundos of the world are part of Marketing Day. It’s a chance to allow the ratings tidal wave that is the Super Bowl to wash over them a bit. But those backwater channels really don’t have anything to do with football. Though neither does the entire Marketing Day experience.

The Super Bowl is a football game, sure. It decides who is the NFL champion. But for most people who watch it is a happening, a daylong excuse to party.

If the Puppy Bowl is your thing, you probably love Marketing Day. If you can’t wait to see the newest Doritos commercial, Marketing Day was made for you. If you are trying to pencil out how the Hawks are going to cover, then skip Tuesday.

There are not many days sans scandal in which the league is plastered all over the nightly news. Or “The Daily Show,” for that matter. Marketing Day is one of them. So celebrate it for what it is. The legacy of P.T. Barnum. But don’t call it a football-related activity.

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