IRVING, Texas -- If at first you don't succeed, leverage public opinion, rewrite the language and try again.
Oklahoma quarterback Baker Mayfield stole the thunder from the question of conference expansion at Big 12 meetings on Wednesday when a motion that would have given him another year of eligibility in 2017 didn't pass.
But a reversal of the ruling on Thursday reinstated a year of eligibility that Mayfield lost after he transferred from Texas Tech to Oklahoma following the 2013 season. That means Mayfield will be only a junior this season, with two years left to play in Norman.
The Big 12 has (or, after Thursday, had) a conference rule that stripped a year of eligibility from walk-on athletes if they transferred within the conference. A faculty athletics representatives vote on Wednesday that would have removed the rule finished 5-5, one vote short of a simple majority that would have changed the rule and given Mayfield another season at Oklahoma. Had that decision held, after the 2016 season, Mayfield could have either gone to the NFL or graduated and transferred to a different conference and played out a final year elsewhere.
Oklahoma athletic director Joe Castiglione struck a defiant tone on Wednesday, vowing that the battle over the rule was "by no means" finished.
"We will continue to fight for what we think is right," he said.
He didn't have to wait long to get his way. The league's athletic directors and presidents added additional discussion of the rule to Thursday's agenda. Bowlsby cited "mixed feelings" within the room, but it's a safe bet that widespread criticism of the decision in news and social media helped spur the decision to tweak the language of the rule.
Under the new rule, walk-ons like Mayfield who transfer will not lose a year of eligibility if they decide to transfer and their current institution does not offer a written pledge of a future scholarship.
"I appreciate the Big 12 faculty athletics representatives spending more time studying the important issue of walk-on transfers and am pleased by the result of today's Big 12 vote," Sooners coach Bob Stoops said, "not just because it potentially impacts Baker Mayfield, but because it was the right thing to do."
Texas Tech and coach Kliff Kingsbury often cited plans to put Mayfield on scholarship, but they never provided any written pledge. Boren said that stipulation was added to avoid "he said, she said" situations. The new rule passed with a 7-3 vote, and Oklahoma celebrated after a frustrating first day for the Sooners that also included news that its primary rivalry game with Texas, played on ABC every year since 1998, would be relegated to cable TV on Fox Sports 1 this season.
And y'all thought you were getting rid of me....- Baker Mayfield (@baker_mayfield6) June 2, 2016
Out of high school, Mayfield passed on a handful of Group of Five scholarship offers and instead walked on at Texas Tech, where he became the first walk-on true freshman in school history to start the season opener. He started seven games in 2013, but after an injury, he slipped into a muddled quarterback competition with Michael Brewer and fellow true freshman Davis Webb. Heading into the bowl game, Kingsbury stated there would be a quarterback competition. Mayfield elected to transfer and walk on to Oklahoma without ever speaking to Stoops.
Last fall, after sitting out a year, he won the starting job over incumbent Trevor Knight and led Oklahoma to a Big 12 title and a College Football Playoff berth. He meshed well with new Sooners offensive coordinator Lincoln Riley and threw for 3,700 yards and 36 touchdowns and ran for 405 yards and seven touchdowns, finishing third in the nation in passer rating and fourth in the Heisman Trophy vote.
Now, Big 12 defenses will have to worry about defending Mayfield for another two seasons. The Big 12 may have stumbled into the right decision after a Day 2 redo, but for Mayfield and the Sooners, it counts all the same.