SEC transfer rule set aside, Cade Mays is eligible

Marvin Westwestwords

Nice guy Greg Sankey is also shrewd.

The commissioner of the Southeastern Conference never bothered to deny Cade Mays’ appeal for immediate eligibility at Tennessee. He didn’t deliberately leave the Vols and Mays dangling all this time. He wouldn’t do that. He just kept quiet and stood strong behind the rule which says a player who transfers from one school to another within the league must serve a year of residential punishment.

Greg Sankey

Mays transferred from Georgia to Tennessee in January. UT eventually made a formal appeal for an exception to the rule. Nothing happened.

I do believe Sankey thought he knew how the saga would end. Time would run out. No ifs, ands, buts or review of “toxic” circumstances at Georgia were necessary.

The commissioner tactfully exonerated himself.

“If the member schools don’t like the rule, why haven’t they changed it?”

Surprise, surprise, the real leaders of the SEC adjusted it yesterday. Presidents and chancellors approved immediate eligibility for Cade, Kentucky quarterback Joey Gatewood and Ole Miss defensive back Otis Reese.

Gatewood transferred from Auburn. Like Mays, Reese left Georgia. Unlike Mays,
Reese still awaits an NCAA ruling on his appeal.

It didn’t sound like Greg Sankey enthusiastically endorsed the rule override.

“It must be stated unequivocally that these approvals are solely a reflection of the unique circumstances present and should not be interpreted as endorsement of the rationale set forth by individuals seeking these waivers,” Sankey said.

“These are unprecedented times in which decisions about eligibility and competitive opportunities demand consideration of the current challenges facing our student-athletes and schools as a result of COVID-19.

“In a non-COVID environment, there may have been a different outcome for some of the waiver requests.”

The commissioner said the SEC will review the situation “in the most timely manner possible” which probably means before next season.

Mays will play Saturday against Missouri. You better believe Jeremy Pruitt is pleased. He thought Cade being left in limbo was seriously unfair.

Pruitt correctly credited Chancellor Donde Plowman and athletic director Phillip Fulmer for their effort and leadership. He said nice things about Sankey and William King, SEC associate commissioner for legal affairs and compliance.

Fulmer, savvy in the ways of the sports world, clearly helped move this mountain. Pruitt said Chancellor Plowman “really went to bat for Cade.

“I just think it’s awesome, not only for him, but for everybody else it’s affecting in this pandemic,” said Pruitt.

The original denial of eligibility by NCAA and the months of non-action by the SEC were very disappointing for Cade, his parents, little brother Cooper, a Volunteer freshman, other teammates, Pruitt and thousands of fans who had anticipated Mays, 6-6 and 300 plus, knocking hell out of South Carolina defenders last Saturday.

Vol leader Trey Smith was an outspoken critic of the system.

They all got a shot of optimism a couple of weeks ago when strong Knoxville attorney Gregory P. Isaacs got the NCAA’s attention. He cited the “toxic environment” at Georgia and said it did not support Cade’s well-being as a student-athlete.

We don’t know what Isaacs said about the $3.5 million lawsuit Kevin Mays has pending against Georgia and others over the partial amputation of his right little finger. The father was injured in a folding chair accident during a 2017 Athens recruiting visit with his son.

We do know the national governing body, awakened by the Isaacs blast, said OK and granted Cade’s request. That reduced the hurdles to one. The SEC has long reserved the right to make final decisions regarding SEC eligibility.

Interesting that the real conference powers went out of their way to “get it right” instead of endorsing the status quo.

Correction: Interesting is the wrong word. It was amazing.

Marvin West welcomes reader comments or questions. His address is

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