The announcement, made Wednesday morning, came after days of negative media attention following Coach Randy Edsall’s decision not to allow O’Brien, offensive lineman Max Garcia and linebacker Mario Rowson to transfer to Vanderbilt even though the Commodores will not play the Terrapins in the near future. Edsall had also restricted the players from transferring to schools that could play Maryland in the near future.
“While at first I thought it was important to limit the institutions to which they could transfer, I have since reconsidered my decision” Edsall said in a statement. “At the end of the day, I want what’s best for these guys and I wish them well in their futures.
“As a program we are looking forward to putting this distraction behind us and to moving forward. Spring practice opens on March 10 and we can’t wait to get back out on the field.”
However, Edsall continues to question whether Vanderbilt Coach James Franklin, the former Maryland offensive coordinator/head coach-in-waiting, had improper contact with O’Brien before O’Brien made his decision to transfer, according to individuals close to Edsall.
As a result, Maryland has filed a formal complaint with the ACC, an individual familiar with the complaint said. The ACC has turned the complaint over to the SEC, which is expected to review the matter.
The individual said Edsall — not athletic director Kevin Anderson — made the decision to release the players to be able to transfer to Vanderbilt or any of the other schools after having time to reflect on his initial decision. O’Brien and Garcia were informed of Edsall’s decision Wednesday morning.
Maryland will continue to pay for the education of O’Brien, Garcia and Rowson throughout the spring semester.
The other schools that Edsall had stipulated that the players could not transfer to were 11 current ACC schools, future ACC schools Syracuse and Pittsburgh and upcoming nonconference opponents Temple and West Virginia. It is common for coaches to stipulate that players cannot transfer to future opponents.
O’Brien, a third-year sophomore, plans to graduate in the spring. By doing so, O’Brien, who has two years of eligibility remaining, will be able to transfer to a Football Bowl Subdivision school and play immediately, so long as he enrolls in a graduate program not offered at Maryland.
“I am pleased to be able to move on and pursue a graduate degree and continue my athletic career at the school of my choosing.” O’Brien said in a statement. “I would like to thank Coach Edsall for his support throughout this process.”
Added Garcia in the statement: “I would like to thank Maryland and the coaching staff and I wish my former teammates well. I’m excited about the prospect of continuing my athletic and academic career at an institution closer to home where my family and friends will be able to see me play.”
Franklin and O’Brien had a close relationship, and Franklin’s presence at Maryland was one of the main reasons why O’Brien chose to attend Maryland. As a high school senior in Kernersville, N.C., O’Brien would drive up to College Park in the wee hours of the morning just so he could sit in on Franklin’s weekend quarterback meetings during spring practice.
And in December 2010, O’Brien helped Franklin clean out his office after Franklin accepted the Vanderbilt head coaching job in part because he was not assured to ever be the head coach at Maryland. At the time, O’Brien took the departure of Franklin extremely hard.
In the days since announcing he would transfer, Mississippi, Arizona, South Florida and East Carolina were the schools that showed considerable interest in O’Brien. O’Brien, who spent formative childhood years in Minnesota, also has interest in Wisconsin, but it is unclear whether Wisconsin has mutual interest.
O’Brien was likely to appeal Edsall’s Vanderbilt stipulation to the NCAA had the coach not reversed his position this week.
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