Analysis: Bringing a reality check to Everett Golson saga

Eric Hansen
South Bend Tribune

About the only things separating Everett Golson’s incremental push toward finding life after Notre Dame and a reality TV show are hair extensions, silicone and screaming/pointing.

Well, actually there has been some of the latter, just not from him.

In fact, the soon-to-be former ND quarterback isn’t even talking in low decibels these days. And other than a brief prepared statement declaring his intentions to spend his final season of college eligibility elsewhere, he’s managed to stay insulated from the media since December, pre-Music City Bowl.

The remaining illuminations, which he may or may not provide himself, that are worth chasing are where he ends up and why he left.

In the interim, and keeping with the surreal nature of reality shows, there’s plenty of conjecture, conflicting information, outrage and the kind of “who cares” type of detail you normally can only get on Facebook.

Here’s a humble attempt to update the scorecard and bring some sanity to waves of derangement.

1. The acrimony is manufactured, at least so far.

The whole was Golson blocked vs. was he unimpeded in his selection of landing spot actually has threads of truth on both sides.

Here’s how transfers work at Notre Dame:

When a student-athlete wants to take his desire to transfer to a point of seeking a release, he or she meets with the compliance office — not the coach — and submits a list of desirable destinations to which he or she would like a release.

The rest of the schools are, in effect, blocked. In Golson’s case, a list of 10-12 schools, per a source knowledgeable of the situation, was submitted. So 116 to 118 FBS schools potentially were unable to reach out to Golson to state their interest.

This protects the student-athlete from being overrun with candidates, which was a probability in Golson’s case.

However, ND head football coach Brian Kelly, and Charlie Weis before him, have in place a policy of not releasing transfers to teams appearing on near-future schedules, particularly the next season in Golson’s case.

And Kelly reiterated that during a radio appearance earlier this week on 105.3 FM, The Fan, in Dallas, Texas, when asked if Texas — ND’s season-opening opponent on Sept. 5 — was in play.

The reality is the list of ND’s 2015 opponents and the list Golson submitted didn’t have any overlap. In the meantime, however, it intermittently reported that ND (or any other school) could not block a grad school-style, no-waiting transfer, which is false. It can.

ND’s alleged block of Golson also became column and sports-talk radio fodder for a couple of days, complete with “how dare they” overtones, even when the block didn’t actually exist. In fact, per a source, communications between Golson and Notre Dame about the transfer process are ongoing and so far on friendly/cordial terms.

Could a block eventually come? Perhaps, because Golson is free to amend and expand his list of prospective schools at any time, but it’s doubtful given his aversion to a media circus he’d want to be part of one because of facing his former team.

2. The grad-transfer exemption is actually a 10-year-old rule.

It just took a Notre Dame quarterback to elevate it to a new level of awareness and, subsequently, debate.

Before center Matt Hegarty and Golson this semester expressed their desires to transfer, 14 Irish players had used the exemption during the Kelly Era alone, with only three players flowing into ND via that option.

Yet there was no national-level outrage and debate on the rule itself or potential blocks in any of those cases. Nor really was there last year when Texas Tech quarterback Michael Brewer actually got blocked, from finishing up at Big 12 rivals Texas and TCU, and instead landed at Virginia Tech.

The fact that first-year Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh now has five fifth-year seniors-to-be sitting in the outgoing queue also has generally generated a collective shrug.

Notre Dame and Stanford are always going to potentially be big suppliers to the fifth-year free agent pool, because of their vigilance toward having their players graduate in 3½ to 4 years, with graduation being the linchpin in the exemption status.

3. The NFL is watching.

And make no mistake, Golson’s change of address is about his NFL potential.

For those who theorize he might have been pushed out the door by Kelly, reading between the lines of his own succinct prepared statement last week, the Irish coach provided more clarity and context earlier this week in Texas via his interview on 105.3.

“When I’ve been in this business as long as I’ve have been, I don’t get surprised much with 18-to-21 year olds,” he said. “We’re disappointed. We certainly wanted him to stay. But when you get your degree and the NCAA allows you to transfer, you’re allowed that transfer.

“We would have liked to see it go differently. We weren’t given any inclination that he was going to leave, and if we could have gotten some notice, we could have gotten another quarterback ready.

“But it is what it is, and we wish him the best. We think we’ve got a great one in Malik Zaire, who was the MVP of the bowl game against LSU, and he’ll give us a chance to win all of our games. So we’re excited about Malik.”

To the end, that Golson apparently jumped, will be a talking point, if not a potential red flag, to some NFL teams next winter/spring.

“I think it adds to the intrigue about him,” draft analyst Scott Wright of draftcountdown.com. “Already there were questions about him. ‘What happened at school? Why did you have to sit out that entire year?’

“And now he’s moving on to another entirely new situation, even though he was poised to be a pretty good situation his final year at Notre Dame — a really good offensive line and a lot of good wideouts.

“It should have been his year to seize the day, and now he’s basically a free agent on the move. So no question, teams will want to figure out what happened there, and they won’t just talk to people at whatever new school he lands.

“They’re going to talk to people at Notre Dame and try to get a read on him, and it’s especially important when you’re talking about quarterbacks. That position has to be the leader of men, the guy everybody looks to. You don’t necessarily have to like him, but you need to respect him.

“That’s one thing with Jameis Winston (at Florida State). Despite all of his off-the-field concerns, on the field and in the locker room he was that consummate field general. So that’s a huge factor when you play quarterback, and that’s what teams are going to want to figure out — why Everett Golson’ career was such a roller-coaster ride.”

And that includes his recent aversion to the media.

“At any other position, it wouldn’t be an issue,” Wright said. “As the quarterback, you’re usually the face of the franchise.”

Of less consequence is whether Golson lands in a pro-style system or a more-familiar spread attack.

“There are so many college teams now that run the spread, that it’s becoming more normal for NFL teams to take a chance on a quarterback from those systems than it would maybe 10-15 years ago,” Wright said.

“Anytime you can jump-start the process and get a feel for that type of a (pro) system, it’s more of an apples-to-apples comparison, and there’s not as much projection. I don’t know that it’s going to be an overriding factor, but it would certainly be a benefit.”

4. The perceptual hit has been minimal to ND’s remaining players.

That doesn’t mean reality will match that in the fall, but the expectation from the outside looking in generally has been that Zaire and his surrounding cast will be good enough to get Notre Dame into a New Year’s Six bowl situation, similar to the expectations Golson at QB brought them.

National voice Stewart Mandel of FOX Sports on Wednesday even projected the Irish as one of the nation’s five most underrated teams, along with Virginia Tech, Texas A&M, Arizona State and 2015 Irish foe Temple.

And perhaps that’s why the Golson story, once he made his announcement, became a much bigger story outside the Notre Dame fan base than within it. In our own web metrics, at southbendtribune.com and NDInsider.com, stories about rising Irish QBs DeShone Kizer and Brandon Wimbush had much larger audience interest than the outgoing QB.

5. Former Irish QB Brady Quinn proves prophetic.

Even before anyone in the media had an inkling of what Golson’s list of preferred destinations looked like, Quinn — now an analyst for FOX Sports until/unless an enticing NFL offer comes — singled out Florida State and Alabama as the two best fits he saw for Golson post-ND.

And now both are in play, with reported mutual interest, along with a handful of other schools.

Quinn, one of only three post-Holtz Era Notre Dame quarterbacks to exhaust his eligibility as a QB and at ND, incidentally lauded the way the quarterback he displaced, Carlyle Holiday, handled that situation.

“I don’t think Carlyle was happy or bitter,” Quinn said of Holiday’s move to wide receiver — the position at which he eventually played in the NFL. “I think it’s just the way he decided to deal with the situation.

“He wanted to graduate from Notre Dame and he wanted to play out the rest of his career at Notre Dame. He was as good a leader and a teammate that you’ll ever find, with the way he handled himself.”

ehansen@sbtinfo.com

(574) 235-6112

@EHansenNDI

Notre Dame head coach Brian Kelly (right) and outgoing quarterback Everett Golson didn't always see eye to eye, but so far their parting of the ways has been cordial. (SBT Photo/GREG SWIERCZ)