Rarely will you see a player leave a football team five games into a season, so naturally the question everybody has for Iowa State's Phillip Bates is why now?
Bates went into the season listed as the co-starter at quarterback with Austen Arnaud.
But Arnaud got the bulk of the playing time; through five games for the Cyclones (2-3), Arnaud had attempted 128 passes and Bates 24.
Bates said he has no hard feelings towards any of his former Cyclones teammates and coaches, and noted the main reason he left was his strong desire to be a starting quarterback.
"It's been a build-up since my freshman year," he said. "There are so many things going through my brain that it really became a possibility later as we moved on in the season that I may have to leave this school.
"There's no good time to leave. It was going to have to be done, and I just felt like it was now and it was a decision I made. There's really no good time to leave a program."
Bates said he started having second thoughts about his decision to attend Iowa State when head coach Gene Chizik pulled him out of his redshirt as a freshman to play him in a limited role at wide receiver in 2007.
Bates had five catches for 73 yards, including a 38-yard reception in the fourth quarter against Iowa that played a big part in the Cyclones beating the Hawkeyes. Bates' reception set up the game-winning field goal.
Since deciding to leave the Cyclones, Bates has spoken with several of his former teammates, and he said all supported him.
"The guys knew my situation," Bates said. "At Iowa State there are a bunch of great guys and I built a lot of great relationships and I have a lot of friends. … They really had my back, and that just shows no matter what we are still going to be good friends."
Bates said he has yet to talk to Chizik since making his decision. He went through athletic department channels to get his release and not to Chizik. Bates said he felt like there was no reason to consult with Chizik about his decision because his mind already was made up.
In Chizik's official statement released by the athletic department, he said Bates "quit" the team.
"I am disappointed that Phillip is quitting our team," Chizik said in the statement. "Although I understand his desire to be a starting quarterback, I am extremely disappointed that he is quitting two days prior to a game."
Said Bates: "That really got to me. I felt like I did everything at Iowa State that Coach Chizik asked me to do. He called me a quitter, and I felt like that was really disappointing to me. I helped out with recruiting and I worked hard, and I thought that was one thing that I didn't think was right. I just felt like it was time for me to leave and reach my potential somewhere else."
On his Monday teleconference, Chizik talked about Bates in more gentle terms.
"We wish Phillip Bates the best," Chizik said. "He is a great young man and we are going to try to help him achieve everything he wants to achieve in college football by giving him a release to wherever he wants to go. We wish him the best. I wish I would have had a chance to tell him that myself, but I didn't and that was not by my choice."
Bates said one of the main reasons he chose to leave now was to give himself enough time to evaluate the situation and be able to enroll at a new school in January. Ohio, Central Michigan, South Dakota State, Northern Iowa and South Illinois have been in contact with Bates' former high school coach, Larry Martin, at Omaha (Neb.) North. Martin said Monday several other schools have called and left messages.
Martin said he his telling every coach to get in touch with Bates' father, Phil Bates Sr. Bates Sr. is a former Nebraska and NFL fullback who currently resides near Phoenix.
"He just wants to play," Martin said of his former quarterback. "Phil is very competitive; he's an outstanding kid with a tremendous work ethic and we need to find the right fit for him. I was hoping it was going to be Iowa State. It's unfortunate things couldn't work out there for him."
Bates hopes the extra time will allow him to find the school that is the best long term fit. Because of NCAA transfer rules, Bates will have to sit out the 2009 season, but he still would have two years' eligibility left.
"By doing this now, I can let teams know early that I'm interested in their school; that's kind of one of the reasons why I left in the middle of the season," Bates said. "It gives teams time to know their scholarship situation and me time to learn about their offense and a chance to get to know them."
As for a timeline, Bates said there is no rush.
"For me, it's however long it's going to take for me to make this decision," he said.