Two NCAA players who were denied waivers after changing schools to be closer to ill relatives are bringing new attention to transfer rules.
Both offensive lineman Brock Hoffman and tight end Luke Ford submitted the waiver in order to avoid sitting out a year after transferring from one DI school to another. However, CBS Sports' Dennis Dodd reported Wednesday that Hoffman appears to have a closer path to eligibility if he files a different type of waiver.
Hoffman transferred to Virginia Tech from Coastal Carolina, and told 247Sports on Tuesday he was not granted immediate eligibility. According to 247Sports, Hoffman will enroll at Virginia Tech at the end of the spring semester and will have two years of eligibility. Hoffman originally petitioned the NCAA to allow him to move closer to home to be near his mother who had a brain tumor removed recently and still feels the effects. He explained the situation in a tweet Tuesday, citing the distance as one of the main factors for the NCAA's decision. Hoffman is from Statesville, NC, which is roughly 134 miles from Virginia Tech. Coastal Carolina is roughly 203 miles from Statesville, NC.
The NCAA added the 100-mile distance rule to medical waivers in 2012.
"I haven’t gone a day thinking I wouldn’t be eligible until today,” Hoffman told the Roanoke Times on Tuesday, adding he didn't hire a lawyer. "I thought it was an open-and-shut case. I guess I was a little naive."
CBS Sports' Dodd talked to attorney Tom Mars who said Hoffman would have been better off pursuing a standard waiver appeal to be eligible immediately. Mars said he is consulting with the Hoffman family, and told CBS Sports that Hoffman can file a new waiver showing "mitigating circumstances that are outside the student athlete's control." According to Mars, that circumstance for Hoffman would be the coaching change at Coastal Carolina.
Mars explained in greater detail to The Athletic's Andy Bitter that the "mitigating circumstances" rule that went into effect last year gives the NCAA staff board "broad discretion to grant waivers in a wide variety of situations."
Former Georgia quarterback Justin Fields and ex-Ohio State quarterback Tate Martell were granted immediate eligibility waivers this offseason. Martell left to go to Miami after Fields arrived with the Buckeyes. According to Dodd, Martell used Buckeyes head coach Urban Meyer's retirement as a mitigating circumstance to get transfer clearance. Mars told CBS Sports that Fields used the mitigating circumstance waiver to get approved.
Ford transferred to Illinois from Georgia after his freshman season and he has three years of eligibility remaining. Ford told 247Sports in January that his family was one of the big reasons he transferred, particularly his grandfather's declining health. Ford told the site, "He means the world. He’s the one who got me playing football. I wanted him to come see some games."
Ford tweeted on Wednesday, writing that his waiver was denied.
It came after fans, current and former teammates and even a coach mounted a "Free Luke Ford" hashtag campaign. Ford is from Carterville, Ill., which is roughly 187 miles from where the University of Illinois is located. Georgia is almost 500 miles from Carterville.
According to 247Sports, Illinois plans to help Ford with the appeal process. While Hoffman appears to be on a closer path to eligibility, Ford's path remains unclear.