IOWA CITY — Iowa wide receiver Oliver Martin has been granted immediate eligibility by the NCAA, the University of Iowa announced Wednesday.
His status with the Hawkeyes for this week’s game against Miami (Ohio)?
“Yeah, he’s definitely in our plan to play him, and he would be on the travel team if we were traveling,” Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz said Tuesday. “Yeah, if we get the green light, he’ll be in there playing at some point, absolutely.”
Martin, a 6-1, 200-pounder from Iowa City, transferred to Iowa’s program earlier this summer. He’s practiced with the Hawkeyes during the summer and through fall camp while waiting for this ruling.
Martin will have three years of eligibility.
Martin caught 11 passes for 125 yards at Michigan last season. He had a relatively quiet transfer. There wasn’t any chirping. Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh praised Martin during Big Ten media days.
“I knew if I did anything on social media or did an interview, it would just create speculation about the whole transition or my decision to transfer,” Martin said. “I just wanted to limit that noise a little bit.”
The noise came anyway. It mostly was the #FreeOliverMartin hashtag on Twitter. As camp came to a close, fans started getting antsy with the NCAA because time is up. The Hawkeyes play host to Miami (Ohio) on Saturday.
“I am ecstatic that the NCAA and the Big Ten Conference have approved our waiver request,” Martin said Wednesday in a statement. “I want to thank my coaches and my teammates for their help as I work to get ready. I have been dreaming of running out of the tunnel wearing the black and gold ever since I decided to join the program. I can’t wait to contribute to this team on the field.”
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And now Martin can just be a football player. Not a recruit who jumped in a swimming pool and went to Michigan. Not a Michigan transfer. Not a player who’s a “maybe” for 2019.
“As soon as I decided to transfer, I wanted to come home,” said Martin, who set Iowa prep records with 239 career receptions, 3,449 receiving yards and most receiving TDs (33). “As soon as the opportunity to come here presented itself, that’s when I knew it was what I wanted to do. I didn’t go into the portal to see if there were other options, I just wanted to come home.”
Martin did have to move into his parents' house this summer. Remember, he was away for two years.
“Living back in my parents' house for a little bit was weird,” he said. “After being in a house with a bunch of other college kids and having a lot of freedom, it was a little weird.”
It was a short, transitional period. And now it’s a permanent deal.
“I think I’m a good receiver,” Martin said. “I think me being a part of the receiving room helps raise the standard. We’ll help push each other. They’re talented. I think I have good ability. I think that helps raise the standard.”
The Iowa program opened its arms to Martin immediately.
“There really wasn’t much to it,” Ferentz said in June. “He made up his mind. When he came forward to us about it, we definitely had interest. When he expressed interest, nothing had changed on our end. He took the steps he had to take and it was a logical move, I think.”
Martin placed his name in the NCAA transfer portal in early June. Less than a week later, Martin announced his transfer to the Hawkeyes.
He found out that he’s eligible for the 2019 season three days before the first game. Is that OK?
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“It’s out of our hands,” Iowa athletics director Gary Barta said. “Once we submit everything, which we did as fast as we were provided, and then it’s in the NCAA’s and Big Ten’s hands.”
Would it have been acceptable for this decision to stretch into the season?
“We would’ve loved it yesterday, today or a week ago,” Barta said, “but we can’t control that.”
Barta is on the NCAA transfer committee. He does support the “one-time exemption” for athletes who transfer and believes that it has to go one way or the other — everyone sits out or everyone gets the one-time exemption. He does want to do away with the graduate transfer move because he believes the academic portion of that is sometimes not a fit at a school.
During Barta’s tenure on the committee, the portal has been created. Student-athletes also now don’t have to ask permission from the school they’re leaving, and the school can’t block the athlete’s aid.
He agrees there’s more work to do. As you can see with Martin’s transfer, it’s far from perfect.
“We fixed it a little bit, let’s continue to try to fix it,” he said.
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