NORMAN — Dorial Green-Beckham shook hands with OU assistant coaches Jay Norvell and Cale Gundy — ending a clandestine, three-hour Thursday morning meeting — jumped in the back seat of a black van and departed the Barry Switzer Center, having taken the first step toward resuming his college football career.
Green-Beckham, a former five-star wide receiver and No. 1 overall prospect in the 2012 recruiting class, officially became a Sooner approximately 90 minutes later, when OU coach Bob Stoops made the annoucement in a news release.
For the former Missouri wideout, though, many questions remain unanswered: Can he keep his nose clean in Norman? What convinced Oklahoma coaches to add the troubled player who was kicked off Missouri’s team following two marijuana arrests and allegations he broke into an 18-year-old woman’s apartment and shoved her down stairs?
Perhaps the most immediate question on everyone’s mind, though, is this: Can Green-Beckham play for the Sooners in 2014? The OU news release announcing Green-Beckham’s enrollment said he wouldn’t be eligible until 2015, but sources close to the program told The Oklahoman that OU plans to pursue an NCAA waiver for instant eligibility.
“In my opinion, based on what we’ve seen, it’s hard to identify any of the more common waivers that really apply neatly and easily to his situation,” said John Infante, a former NCAA compliance officer who now runs the Bylaw Blog, a site devoted to explaining common issues in major college athletics.
After losing several key wide receivers to graduation, Oklahoma’s only returning wideout with any significant experience is junior Sterling Shepard. The position group is one of only a few areas where the Sooners — a squad widely expected to compete for a national championship next season — are considered relatively weak and untested.
Following OU’s announcement, many fans immediately began latching onto the idea of Green-Beckham receiving a so-called “run-off” waiver, which the NCAA created a couple years ago for players who claimed they were removed from programs for reasons beyond their control.
Oklahoma State’s basketball team recently added senior point guard Anthony Hickey, a three-year starter at LSU who was granted immediately eligibility via the run-off waiver.
However, Hickey’s situation was different; the Tigers recruited depth at Hickey’s position, then peacefully parted ways with him because of things like missed classes and workouts.
The run-off waiver requires that the athlete’s previous school approve the request. But even if Missouri signs off on it, Infante said there might still be issues.
“What that boils down to really is that they weren’t good enough, or they got recruited over or something like that,” Infante said. “It certainly does not include a disciplinary dismissal.
“I think the idea that Missouri would come back and say, ‘No, actually, he was not dismissed from the team for disciplinary reasons’ is a little farfetched.”
Another case that could give Green-Beckham hope for a waiver is that of basketball player Dez Wells, who was expelled from Xavier two summers ago after sexual assault allegations but was never charged. Wells gained immediate eligibility at Maryland.
Green-Beckham was never charged in the allegations of burglary and assault that resulted in his dismissal from Missouri.
“What I was told about that case is that it is more complicated than simply the fact that he was expelled for something that was never charged as a crime,” Infante said. “There are other factors there. Without knowing what those factors are, it’s hard to say whether those two situations are similar enough that Green-Beckham should get the same result.”
Infante said Oklahoma’s best bet with Green-Beckham is probably to “get all the spaghetti together and throw it against the wall to see if any of it sticks.”
Green Beckham (6-foot-6, 225 pounds) caught 87 passes for 1,278 yards and 17 touchdowns in two seasons at Missouri. He set the national high school record with 6,353 career receiving yards and 75 touchdowns at Hillcrest High School in Springfield, Mo.
The Sooners were in the hunt for Green-Beckham during his high-profile recruitment in 2012, when he ultimately chose to sign with Missouri.
“We are pleased to welcome Dorial to the University of Oklahoma, where he is excited to continue his education and resume his playing career,” Stoops said in the statement. “Dorial understands the privilege and responsibilities of representing the Oklahoma Football program. He is a talented young man who is eager to get to work with the rest of our team in the classroom and on the field.”
According to sources, Green-Beckham will be held to a zero-tolerance policy with the Sooners because of his checkered past.
“I appreciate this opportunity from Coach Stoops and the University of Oklahoma,” Green-Beckham said in a statement. “There are people here who will help me build a strong foundation. I’ve disappointed myself and others in the past. I know that I have a lot of work to do and I’m ready to get started.
“The university has made the expectations clear and I want to live up to them and be a positive part of the campus and team.”