College football is trying to battle its way through a coronavirus pandemic. Its fight is deeply fractured.
The Big Ten and Pac-12 conferences already have opted out of the 2020 season, hopeful of postponing their football season to the spring. The Big 12, ACC and SEC have refused to quit or postpone.
College football players have added to the tumult. They are trying to organize while demanding a bigger cut of a multi-million dollar business than a scholarship provides.
These are strange times for college football. But amid the uncertainty, the NCAA is behaving quite normally. That’s not a compliment.
The NCAA ruled Monday that Georgia transfer offensive lineman Cade Mays will not be eligible this season at Tennessee, which means his college career could be finished. He’s a pro prospect who will be eligible for the 2021 NFL draft.
Not surprisingly, the Vols are appealing the decision. They can’t give up after one ruling on a player as valuable as Mays, who started games in his freshman and sophomore seasons and played all five positions in Georgia’s offensive line.
Mays was a recruiting coup for the Bulldogs. They outrecruited the Vols for the Knoxville native, whose father, Kevin Mays, started in UT’s offensive line in 1993 and 1994.
Mays would join UT preseason All-American Trey Smith and three other returning starters to give Tennessee one of its best offensive lines. That line is now on hold. Don’t bothering asking why.
So many of the NCAA’s decisions rarely make sense. The college governing body is wildly inconsistent, whether doling out NCAA sanctions or ruling on the eligibility of transfers.
Why was former Georgia quarterback Justin Fields granted immediate eligibility at Ohio State after transferring in January 2019? Why was former Southern California quarterback J.T. Daniels granted immediate eligibility at Georgia after transferring this year?
Oops. I forgot my own NCAA rule: Don’t ask why.
The NCAA had an opportunity to gain credibility this past spring. It passed.
A proposed one-time transfer waiver that would allow college athletes to transfer and be immediately eligible would have brought consistency to the transfer process. But the proposal was turned down until at least the 2021-22 academic year. What’s the rush, huh?
A rush was everything for Mays, who would have a chance to play with his younger brother, Cooper, if he gained eligibility for 2020. Cooper is a freshman offensive lineman with the Vols.
This transfer story also includes a strange twist. Cade’s father is suing Georgia.
The suit stems from an injury Kevin received during Cade’s 2017 recruiting trip to Athens, Georgia. Kevin’s pinkie finger was severed when caught in a folding chair.
The incident didn’t prevent Cade from signing with the Bulldogs. And there’s no way of knowing if it was included in his bid for a waiver to play right away. Such details aren’t made public.
Neither are the reasons behind an NCAA ruling.
Without Mays, Tennessee still will field one of the top offensive lines in the SEC. With Mays, UT could field one of the best offensive lines in the country.
The caliber of its offensive line will be determined, in part, by Tennessee’s appeal. Common sense should factor into the decision.
There was considerable momentum behind this spring’s proposal to allow college football players a one-time transfer with immediate eligibility. My guess is the proposal will become a rule in 2021-22.
So why not demonstrate leniency a year earlier?
John Adams is a senior columnist. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him at: twitter.com/johnadamskns.