CHICAGO — Oliver Martin’s move caught Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh by surprise, but he believes the Iowa transfer should be allowed to take the field this fall for the Hawkeyes.
“It’s not my decision, that’s for others to decide, but I can have an opinion and I do believe student-athletes in all sports should have a one-time ability to transfer without having to sit out a year,’’ Harbaugh said Friday at the Big Ten kickoff.
While the NCAA allows athletes in sports other than football and basketball to do that, Martin is among a number of football transfers who have petitioned the NCAA for a waiver that would allow him to compete immediately and not have to sit out next fall as required under current rules.
Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said it remains undetermined if the former state record-setting receiver for Iowa City West will receive the waiver he is seeking.
“We’ll wait and see what happens,’’ Ferentz said. “I have no idea what the timetable might be.’’
Martin has been on campus at Iowa since June and is participating in summer workouts with the Hawkeyes.
If his waiver is granted, a process that is handled by Iowa’s compliance office with the assistance of an attorney hired by Martin’s family, the redshirt sophomore would have three years of eligibility with the Hawkeyes and could compete in Iowa’s Aug. 31 season opener against Miami (Ohio).
If it is rejected, Martin would have two years of eligibility remaining starting with the opening game of the Hawkeyes’ 2020 schedule.
“I do know that he has been doing a great job with us this summer,’’ Ferentz said. “And, I know that he has been fitting in well with everybody.’’
That doesn’t surprise Harbaugh.
The Michigan coach said Martin had a very productive spring on the practice field for the Wolverines after catching 11 passes for 125 yards and one touchdown in 13 games last season as a redshirt freshman.
“I was surprised that Oliver transferred,’’ Harbaugh said. “He had a heck of a spring for us and was on the top of the depth chart coming out of spring practices. We thought he was ready to begin courses in the business school. It caught us by surprise.’’
Martin placed his name on the NCAA transfer portal, and many of the power-five programs that recruited him out of high school contacted him at that point to gauge his interest.
That group included Iowa and less than a week after indicating he was seeking to transfer, Martin was in Iowa City and had been introduced to his new teammates.
The only part that remains unclear is when he will be able to take the field with them in a game, something Harbaugh and Ferentz believe should not be so complicated.
“It should be clear for youngsters. … It would be good to have a clear concise rule. Everyone would benefit from that,’’ said Harbaugh, saying he supports immediate eligibility for one-time transfers and requiring a second-time transfer to sit out a year before being eligible to compete.
Iowa director of athletics Gary Barta said currently the NCAA is approving between 60-70 percent of waiver requests, something he considers an indication that existing rules need to be reviewed.
Ferentz simply wants clarity.
“The criteria for why some are approved and others are not is a little confusing right now,’’ he said. “There doesn’t seem to be consistency.’’
Iowa currently lists returning starters Brandon Smith and Ihmir Smith-Marsette and redshirt freshman Nico Ragaini as its starters at the three receiver positions.
Martin is not currently listed on the Hawkeye depth chart, a situation that won’t change until his eligibility is determined.
“We certainly are not counting on him being out there at this point,’’ Ferentz said. “We think he will be a good football player for us and he’s a good young person, but we aren’t counting on him right now. It would be a bonus if it happens and he can play this fall.’’