Tennessee fans were stunned when head coach Jeremy Pruitt revealed that the NCAA had denied offensive lineman Cade Mays’ waiver during a press conference on Monday afternoon; however, they were not the only ones who were caught off guard, as numerous analysts and reporters publicly condemned the NCAA’s decision.
Jay Bilas, a popular analyst for ESPN and CBS Sports, was among the more vocal voices calling out the NCAA, as he referred to the decision as a wrong. “Good grief,” wrote Bilas through a statement on Twitter. “With all we’re going through, Cade Mays has his transfer waiver denied? The NCAA has a chance to right this wrong on appeal, and should. Mays didn’t have a choice but to leave Georgia, and the NCAA knows it. Too bad Mays isn’t a QB… he’d be eligible immediately.”
Bilas would later retweet multiple documents from Knoxville radio host Trey Wallace, who obtained statements from Tom Mars — Cade Mays’ former attorney. “I’m sadly disappointed to say the least,” said Mars. “But at this point, I don’t think there’s anything the NCAA could do about a waiver request that would shock me. I’m starting to think they must use a dartboard to make these decisions.”
“People need to know, and the NCAA should acknowledge, that the waiver process is completely broken,” continued Mars. “When the pandemic was becoming a national crisis last May, the NCAA kicked the can once again and said they were going to take up the working group’s proposal to adopt a ‘one-time transfer without penalty’ sometime in January. After the council decided to sit on a long overdue proposal that’s inevitably going to be adopted, why wouldn’t the NCAA staff err on the side of granting waivers in the meantime instead of kicking kids while they’re down?”
“Isn’t it bad enough that football players have to deal with the stress and uncertainty of living through the most chaotic chapter in the history of college sports?” concluded Mars. “The NCAA must not think so.”
Bilas has been a vocal critic of the NCAA for years, so while his position on Mays’ waiver should come as no surprise, it is certainly noteworthy — especially considering how large of a platform the former coach has. Bilas’ support could also benefit the Vols as they submit an appeal to the NCAA in hopes of forcing the organization to reverse the decision; however, they will have to hope the NCAA moves quickly as the season is already looming on the horizon.
In addition to the backlash from the national media, the NCAA is also under fire from Tennessee players, who have ripped the organization for their inconsistency in ruling on transfer waivers. “Interesting how other positions get cleared seemingly without hassle,” wrote Tennessee offensive lineman Trey Smith on Twitter, adding the hashtag “Free Cade Mays.”
Since Smith's tweet, several other Tennessee players joined the movement, and it quickly began to trend on Twitter. Fans, former Georgia teammates of Mays, and Tennessee coaches joined the mix. A petition has even started circulating, in attempt to get Mays approval by the NCAA.
Tennessee head coach Jeremy Pruitt was also less than pleased with the NCAA, stating during his press conference that he disagreed with the decision during his press conference on Monday. “I hate it for him,” said Pruitt. “I hate it for all the young men and women out there that want to transfer. I’m in favor of the one-time transfer (rule). My question is, ‘why should we stand in the way of a young man or woman trying to figure out where the right place for them is?’ Right now that’s not the rule. I hope eventually that will be the rule. "
Tennessee’s season-opener is currently scheduled to come on the road in Columbia against the South Carolina Gamecocks on September 26th. Unless the NCAA chooses to reverse the decision regarding Mays, then he will be forced to watch from afar in William-Brice Stadium until — or unless — the organization chooses to take a look at Tennessee’s appeal.