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Harrison Transfer a Reminder

15 August 2012 Brett Richins 19 Comments

Former Cougar Damarcus Harrison (BYU photo)

The unfortunate turn of events that led to Damarcus Harrison’s departure from BYU is a reminder of the unusual challenge the school faces and just how remarkable it is that it is able to field so many outstanding athletic programs year in and year out.

Harrison left BYU this summer with the intent to follow in his older brother’s footsteps and enter the mission field.

However, after arriving home in Greenwood, South Carolina, he learned that his mission would be delayed several months. BYU head basketball coach Dave Rose meanwhile, expecting Damarcus to be gone for the next two years, had given his scholarship away.

Harrison reportedly wanted to return to Provo a play this coming season, but without a scholarship available to him, he instead opted to transfer to Clemson, an hour-and-a-half from his home town. He has petitioned the NCAA to waive the rule that forces transfers to sit out a year in an attempt to play for the Tigers this coming season.

Harrison’s scholarship spot was essentially given to the reigning Colorado 5-A Player of the Year Corey Calvert, who unexpectedly ended up in Provo this year after deciding to postpone his mission plans until after his freshmen season. The combo guard averaged 22 points, six rebounds and five assists as a senior at Chaparral High School last year.

The Harrsion and Calvert situations demonstrate just how difficult it can be for coaches trying to work around the ever-changing plans of 18 and 19-year-old prospective missionaries.

The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away

Coaches in many sports at BYU are constantly dealing with the carousel of players coming and going from the mission field. Some of those that leave never return to the team, some come back but never return to their former level of play.

Every now and again though, the Cougars end up with some other program’s returned missionary in the fold. Players like Riley Nelson and Taysom Hill in football and Josh Sharp in basketball are recent examples of gains that the Cougars have made in the missionary shuffle.

For Hill, his situation ended up exactly opposite of his older brother Jordan, who originally signed to play at BYU, but transferred to Arizona State following his mission where he became a three year starter at defensive tackle for the Sun Devils.

Taysom originally signed to play for Stanford, but had a change of mind when Cardinal head coach Jim Harbaugh left Palo Alto to coach the San Francisco 49ers.

Opposing coaches often complain about the maturity of the BYU players because so many of them have served missions, but there isn’t one of them that would deal with what BYU has to deal with in order to create such an “advantage”.

Any coach in America could take advantage of the so-called BYU rule and send their players off for two years and serve in the military or peace corps. Of course they don’t because any advantage created would be far outweighed by the disadvantages created by players interrupting their playing careers and the lack of continuity in a program that such a practice can create.

In fact, before LaVell Edwards came along it was a common belief among most coaches at BYU that the disadvantages were too much to overcome. But Edwards turned all of that around.

Honor Code Limitations

Add to the comings and goings of missionary service, the fact that BYU must recruit athletes that are willing to abide by the school’s strict honor code, and it’s a wonder that the Cougars are able to even compete in sports these days, let alone excel the way they do.

A number of years ago I was sitting in the office of Spike Dykes, the former affable head football coach at Texas Tech. As we were visiting, Dykes wistfully talked about the built-in recruiting advantage his good friend LaVell Edwards had with LDS kids. I had to remind the coach of just how small LaVell’s recruiting pool actually was.

When the Brandon Davies honor code incident made national news during the 2010-11 basketball season, some media members were amazed that BYU could compete on the level it does when its code demands such a high level of sexual morality and personal discipline from its athletes. Such a requirement from college kids in this day and age seemed unrealistic to a lot of pundits.

Yet BYU continually proves that it can be done. Every time a Cougar team takes the field or the court, it’s a testament that you can still do things the right way, live by your convictions, have high standards of conduct and still come out the victor.

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  • Crazy Cougar said:

    Its too bad Demarcus has chosen to leave I initially thought he would come back to BYU after his mission but then read somewhere that he will not be returning. I thought Demarcus had a ton of potential and I was very excited to see him later on in his career. Im sad to see him go but also glad he is making good decisions in his life. Good luck Demarcus!

  • Brian said:

    Best article I’ve read on this subject ever. Very well done and 100% accurate. Thanks for the insight!

  • Rob H. said:

    Harrison had a rough freshman year. He didn’t play much, might have had a shock after living so far from family. It’s hard to get into other’s minds. Best of luck to him.

  • Gary said:

    Last year when Harrison had his breakout game in the NCAA tourney I wondered after the game if the fact he played so well had to do with finally deciding on his mission plans.

    I somehow imagined him finally coming to peace with needing to go on a mission and the pressure of that decision having been lifted from him he was able to go out and play his best BB of the year.

    The next day or two it was announced in the papers that he had made a decision to go and I had to smile.

    I hope he does not back away from his plans to serve even though they have been postponed for whatever reasons. I also wish him the best at Clemson.

    Good kid and apparently a good family. They can represent the Church at any university if they concentrate on being the best example they can be.

  • Jared (the not original, I guess) said:

    Boy, it sure feels like something should be able to be worked out to keep him in BYU blue. What a shame to lose a talent like that over something like this.

  • KentuckyCougar said:

    This is the first I am hearing of Damarcus leaving — guess I missed the memo on that one! Though, I am happy to hear he wants to serve a mission. All-in-all, that is probably the most important thing to his future success. We will miss him on the basketball team. He had a lot of potential and really helped in a few games last season!

    On more of a note relating directly to the rest of this post, well done, Brett! I appreciate you taking time to write this. I believe you are 100% correct in how much scrutiny BYU and the LDS Church take for the Honor Code and standards. BYU does a great job recruiting the best athletes available who are willing to live in accordance to their standards. I’m not saying other schools don’t have high standards – a lot do – but a lot really don’t care.

  • AF Coug said:

    Going on a mission is even more important than playing at BYU and I personally wish DeMarcus the very best in his labors.

    I saw an article on ESPN and a commentor made an interesting inject. He said that Clemson could be merely a place holder so DeMarcus can go to school for a year on scolly, mission for two and then his clock is reset to immediately transfer back to BYU for the last two years of eligibility.

    Could be, I suppose, and I hope that is so but really with the new Riley Rule inplace at the NCAA it makes it hard for Coach Rose to communicate with him once he signs. And since Clemson will have their foot in the door I could possibly see him going back there following the mission. Though I very much hope not.

    Again, good luck to him. Missions suck but they are the best and you’ll be so much better for it.

  • Jared (the original) said:

    I feel for DH.
    Consider being 18 years old and traveling 2000 miles away to play BB. I think the atmosphere at BYU is truly unique, and worth the sacrifice, but emotions are powerful. It can’t be easy to miss family and never or rarely have the chance to have them come to see you play.

    But it is apparent in this case that that is not the main issue. The huge amount of juggling that Rose has to do is very limited in latitude. He only has a few scholarships to use each year, so the moment he gives his word, I think it only right to keep it.

    DH made the original call when he was leaving. His Priesthood leadership has the final say. (My brother delayed his mission for almost a year because those in authority over him thought he needed to mature more. I missed him by a few months before coming home myself. It is not always as we think it will be.)

    I think DH could have just left school for the rest of the year and gone on his mission in Jan as it indicates. He would only have lost 6 months and could use the redshirt and still be at BYU after he comes back. But he wants to play. So he transfers. If not having a scholarship is the only reason he left, it seems there were other alternatives. But the distance also probably plays into it, and this issue is just the catalyst to jump start the transfer. Sorry to see him go.

    But sometimes I wonder why we recruit in cultures that are hard for the player to adjust to the BYU culture.

  • Brett Richins (author) said:

    AF Coug,

    I saw that comment on ESPN as well, but the “Riley Nelson rule” will make it very difficult for DH to ever return to Provo.

  • Dave said:


    Could you enlighten me to as what the “Riley Nelson” rule is? I’ve always heard that it has to do with BYU, or any team for that matter, (obviously) not being allowed to recruit players while they’re out on their mission. However, I have yet to see an article to substantiate the claim that BYU ever DID recruit Riley on his mission.

    Second, I don’t see how the “Riley Nelson” rule (if I understand it correctly) applies, since as you pointed out in the article, both Taysom Hill and Josh Sharp transferred to BYU from different schools after serving their mission without any hullabaloo.

    So would the issue be that the NCAA doesn’t want to set a precedent to have someone like Damarcus transfer because he wants to play basketball this year but the school he wants to go to doesn’t have a schollie for him, so he goes to a different school, then serves a mission, and then transfers back to BYU when he comes home and the Cougs have a scholarship waiting for him?

    It just seems to be that this is a completely different and unique situation than the Riley Nelson rule (as I understand it), so I don’t see how that rule could apply here.

    If you, or anyone else, could enlighten me, I’d appreciate it :)


  • Brett Richins (author) said:


    If a player enrolls at a school, then goes on his mission, he cannot transfer to another school and play immediately. He either has to redshirt or sit out and lose a year of eligibility. Before Riley Nelson, missionaries essentially became free agents after 18 months and could transfer and play the season after returning from their missions, that is no longer the case. In Hill’s case, he signed with Stanford but didn’t enroll before his mission. In Sharp’s case, he was able to transfer because of a loophole in the system. Josh signed his National Letter of Intent with Utah and redshirted there, but he did not sign his financial aid agreement that accompanies the NLI. In the NCAA’s view that voided his contract with Utah and he was able to escape SLC on a technicality.

  • Dave said:


    Awesome, thanks for clearing that up for me. Thanks for all you do, DSOB is one of my favorite sites and I always enjoy your articles and insight.

    Go Cougars!

  • BigCougar said:

    Great article Brett and there were some good comments following it. This doesn’t surprise me, we’ve been hearing rumblings that he’s been wanting to transfer closer to home ever since the end of last season.

    He’s been pretty active on twitter and made several comments that left people scratching their heads. You have to wonder, if he wants to play now, why did he transfer? Having to sit out a year due to transfer rule sort of shots a big hole in that excuse.

    I wonder if this wasn’t his effort to try and find an easy way out of a difficult situation (wanting to transfer) and he was hoping to avoid upsetting Y fans.

    I guess we won’t know anything for certain until we hear what Walt has to say on the matter.

  • FL Cosmo said:

    First, bummer for both Harris and BYU things shook out this way. Sounds like it couldn’t have been helped. I’m sure we all wish nothing but the best to Harris though.

    Second, this has absolutely nothing to do with this post, and very well might be old news, but it was new to me. Chuck Neinas, while working as a consultant for CSU, stated that if/when the Big 12 decides to expand, it will likely be eastward, and Louisville currently sits at the front of the line. This is good news for anyone who wants to see BYU eventually land in the Pac.


  • Sam said:

    I wonder if returning to BYU was an option at all even if a schollie was available. Sometimes when a mission is delayed it’s for reasons that are contrary to the honor code. Hope DeMarcus does great things on the court and in the mission field. Oh and the Pac will never include BYU. They are to busy exhibiting there own prejudice while condemning others for not falling inline with there self professed utopia. Mote in the eye stones in glass houses etc..

  • Walt Hanssen said:

    DSOB members-

    I would like to start out this day by makings amends with any of you who I may have offended. I am not a Ute fan who is trolling on this site hoping to engage some poor suspecting Cougar fan and then reel him into my boat to see if I can convert him and if not, throw him back into the water in disgust. I love BYU but I am not a Ute hater; I didn’t grow up here and never even knew anything about BYU or its football team until 1976 when I sat down with Elder Fisher & Elder Jensen in Fallon, Nevada to listen to their message. I grew up in CA as a Stanford fan and our rivals were CAL, USC & UCLA. But back then, I and most other PAC10 fans cheered for whoever won the PAC10 to beat whoever came to the Rose Bowl.
    I say all this because I have a little different perspective than most of you who grew up here and who were Cougar fans while you were in the womb. I don’t hate the Utes and as a matter of fact I want them to win every game they play except against us. I also want every team we play to win every game they play except us. Why you ask, well think about it based on this year. If the Utes, Boise State, Notre Dame & Georgia Tech (I choose only these teams because they are the only ones I can see, maybe not Georgia Tech) win all their games and they are already ranked or just outside the Top 25, imagine where they would be ranked and what that would do to our strength of schedule.
    So I know this will come across as being corny and you will be disappointed that I don’t have road rage every time I see a Ute fan, but this is where I am coming from. I was at the Utah game last year and had to hang my head when I left the stadium midway thru the 4th quarter to the chanting of the Ute fans who sang Nah Nah Nah Nah, Nah Nah Nah Nah, Hey Hey Hey, Goodbye and “why are you leaving so early” and a few other things that I shouldn’t say here and I would love to go to the Ute game this year and have the opportunity to say the same thing.
    I love DSOB, I appreciate, respect Brett for all the time and effort he puts into writing such incredible articles (with no monetary return) and I enjoy reading everyone’s comments. If this is too mushy and if I get blasted for not hating the Utes, so be it. GO COUGS!

  • FL Cosmo said:

    @Sam – There are a million reasons why a mission can be delayed that have nothing to do with issues that would cause a student to run afoul with the honor code. IMO speculation like yours about Harrison comes off as judgmental, and that kind of mentality is a huge reason why BYU and the Church (and the state of Utah for that matter) have so many haters. This kid deserves nothing but applause for the sacrifice he is making to serve.

  • SoCal Cougar said:

    Brett – fantastic article. I love DSOB and I love the comments that come after. This is by far my favorite site. Thanks for your sacrifice.

    It is always interesting to hear opposing coaches, schools and media complain so heartily about our mature players when none of them would ever change places with Bronco or Dave Rose. Rarely will anyone ever call them on it. Sometimes we will the game with getting mature players back who can get their play back, but often times, it is a very difficult thing of the team with the lack of continuity and situations like Demarcus.

    But, with a longer-term vision, I wouldn’t change it.

  • Vesparider said:

    Too bad he won’t be back at BYU. I understand that his older brother will enroll at BYU next year after his mission and may walk on to the basketball team.

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