After spending two days in the transfer portal, BYU receiver Kody Epps is calling an audible and will return to Provo for his sophomore season. In receiver lingo, what appeared to be a “go route” out of town was audibled into a “comeback” play to the sideline.
After a whirlwind couple of days, the 5-foot-11, 187-pound slot receiver isn’t going anywhere and Wednesday morning he made it official on his Twitter account.
So, what happened?
The intimate details of why Epps decided to leave and what brought him back may never be fully known. One can assume, as in the cases of so many others, there were promises pitched for the kind of NIL money that could entice a happy young athlete to turn his or her world upside down in a matter of minutes.
This is a failure of the NCAA that threatens the future of the game and challenges the integrity of athletes, coaches and boosters with little to no oversight.
When faced with the overwhelming option, and a pending deadline, life for Epps became as complicated as slicing through a secondary where not everything goes as planned. Not every play ends up in the end zone. Some even end with season-ending injuries.
Epps missed the last five games of 2022 and all of spring practice after shoulder surgery. If he was harboring any intentions of leaving school, he hid it well, even from his best friends.
When teammates Kedon Slovis, Chase Roberts and Isaac Rex heard the news from Epps on Sunday that he entered the transfer portal just hours before the deadline, they were surprised, even angry. A similar reaction came from the coaches, the team and the fans. How could someone who appeared to be so in love with his BYU experience, and so good at selling it, leave it so easily?
The answer is both simple and complicated — money.
Epps reportedly had several big suitors, likely offering riches he and his family hadn’t seen before. In his case, the grass was greener on the other side, but it wasn’t free from collateral damage to the place and people that he loved. In the end, that mattered more to him than money.
BYU didn’t buy him back. According to sources, his already-impressive NIL agreements remained unchanged. The Cougars didn’t beg him back either. In fact, on Tuesday they received a commitment from 6-3, 200-pound receiver Darius Lassiter from Eastern Michigan.
Epps surely had to win his way back, first with his head coach and then everybody else. Kalani Sitake is smart enough to know that his team is better with Epps on it, and he is wise enough to understand that kids make choices they sometimes regret. Fortunately for the Los Angeles native, Sitake is the saint of second chances — so long as the recipient is sincere.
If Superman were real, I imagine Epps would ask him to reverse the rotation of the earth back to Sunday when he could have avoided the transfer portal and its NIL kryptonite all together. But that’s not how life works.
It might have taken a few days off the grid to figure it out, but BYU is where Epps truly wants to be. For the business major, this has been an economics lesson about things money can and cannot buy. Now that it’s behind him, his focus can return to being a real Superman on the field in September.
Dave McCann is a contributor to the Deseret News and is the studio host for “BYU Sports Nation Game Day,” “The Post Game Show,” “After Further Review,” and play-by-play announcer for BYUtv. He is also co-host of “Y’s Guys” at ysguys.com.