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January 13, 2009Oklahoma lost the NCAA championship to Florida last week. The Sooners have now lost one of their top 2009 recruits a few days later.
Rider senior wide receiver Eric Ward has switched allegiance within the Big 12 South, opting to play football next year at Texas Tech instead.
"I felt like I could do better at Tech," said Ward, who was named the Times Record News' Large School Red River 22 MVP in 2008. "I just wanted what was best for me. I'm happy with my decision, and I hope people will support me with my decision."
Ward caught a team-high 46 passes for 737 yards and five touchdowns, and was Rider's second-leading rusher with 356 yards. He also earned the District 5-4A MVP for the district-winning Raiders.
He finished his career at Rider with 123 career receptions for 2,127 yards and 24 touchdowns.
Texas Tech is coming off one of the program's best years in which it posted an 11-2 record, finishing No. 12 in the final Associated Press poll after a loss to Mississippi in the Cotton Bowl. But that success had little impact with Ward's change of heart.
What did was how similar Rider's offense is scheme-wise with Tech's.
"I feel like I'm at Rider still," he said. "I'm going to strive to be better than (Michael) Crabtree."
Ward said Tech's academic record helped factor into the decision. The Red Raiders led the Big 12 Conference with a 79-percent graduation rate in the NCAA's latest report released last fall. Oklahoma was a conference-worst 46 percent.
"I want a degree," said Ward, who plans on majoring in criminal justice and sociology. "Football is not going to last forever."
Ward is the second Rider senior to switch his allegiance in the past month. Quarterback Shavodrick Beaver originally committed to Michigan, but opted for Tulsa instead on Dec. 19.
While Ward can't officially sign a letter of commitment with the Red Raiders until Feb. 4, he already moved to Lubbock a couple of days ago.