Sam McGuffie wasn't very comfortable while playing football at Michigan. He suffered several concussions. He was a bit of a loner. He missed his family. He was a long way from home. All of this was written in various stories after the 2008 college football season. So he was granted permission to transfer to Rice. With a slight catch. He had to sit out for a season.
But that season has passed, and he's ready to play football again.
"It's wild. It's been a wild ride so far," McGuffie said of his time off. "I believe that we have something special here [at Rice], that not everyone knows about, but the people in this building do. I just think with a little a bit more practice, a little bit more coaching, and just a couple of more opportunities I think we're going to be something special here in the near future."
It was tough for McGuffie, standing around on the sidelines and watching the Owls suffer through a 2-10 season a year after winning the Texas Bowl.
"It's been a tough year for him, and us, knowing that he's over there and can't play," Owls coach David Bailiff said. "But he is so excited to get out there today [and practice]. He's one of those, a lot like James Casey. One of the first here and the last to leave. He loves football, and he loves to practice. And the beautiful thing is we have a lot of young men like that now. That absolutely love this game and are passionate about it. We're really thrilled Sam chose us, and we can't wait to see him out there in the blue carrying the ball."
That McGuffie had to sit out a year, however, shows some of the unfairness of the NCAA rules. A coach can break a contract and go to another school without NCAA penalty of any type. Despite a contract saying that a guy is the coach of Cincinnati, that coach can just bolt for Notre Dame at the drop of a hat and not only does nobody care, but nobody could stop it if they wanted. But should a player decide that Rich Rodriguez is not the right coach for him, or that he just doesn't fit into the school or the system, then that player has to sit out a season.
If that is, the school even allows him to transfer.
Normally, for a player to transfer from one FBS school to another, the player must first seek written permission from his current school. Even then, the player's current school can dictate the schools to which he can transfer. It doesn't matter if the coach who recruited the player leaves or is fired, the player must stay. So even though Brian Kelly gets to completely soak up the atmosphere of Notre Dame, the players he recruited are stuck at Cincinnati.
The NCAA isn't totally heartless, however. When USC got hit with some major penalties for issues arising from the playing careers of Reggie Bush and O.J. Mayo, the NCAA allowed the players on the team to transfer to just about any school they wanted without having to sit out for the season. The only exception is that they couldn't transfer to another school in the PAC 10.
But McGuffie, who was playing for a coach who appears to be a walking NCAA violation, but whose school was not yet on any type of probation, had to sit out the season even though he just wanted to play closer to home and to his family.
"That's going to be special to me," he said. "I remember all of the little kids that used to come to my games, and all the people from my city, and around my city, and my area coming after the games, and being able to talk to them and hear their stories about their days....I think it's going to be just a perfect opportunity to play for them and put on a show."
It's been a long wait for McGuffie. And it's one that he shouldn't have had to sit through. Then again, the NCAA has never been accused of being a rational, logical, or compassionate organization. But maybe this year away from the game will make the first time McGuffie hits that hole and puts on a burst speed to get into the defensive backfield that much sweeter.