If I could get you to step away from the brackets for just a minute and pay attention to what happened in Miami on Tuesday.
This was a landmark college football decision that could beckon others to follow, thus altering the NCAA’s future treatment of transfers in all sports.
Quarterback Tate Martell, who transferred from Ohio State to Miami, was ruled eligible to play immediately for the Hurricanes. The NCAA approved Martell’s hardship request to not have to sit out a year as a Division I transfer on the grounds of … well … we’re not really sure.
Miami athletic director Blake James said the NCAA acknowledged that the waiver “met the criteria under the membership established guidelines.”
First one, there was a coaching change at Ohio State. The Buckeyes also brought in transfer quarterback Justin Fields from Georgia, who himself was ruled eligible immediately in part because he was the target of bigoted comments by a UGA baseball player during this past season.
A new NCAA rule says vaguely that a waiver can be granted “due to documented mitigating circumstances that are outside the student-athlete’s control and directly impact the health, safety and well-being of the student-athlete.”
Others in the past year, most notably Michigan quarterback Shea Patterson, were declared eligible for reasons outside of their control. In Patterson’s case, it appeared to have to do with NCAA trouble at Ole Miss.
At Ohio State, Martell had a new coach and unexpected competition for the starting job. Those are common reasons for a player to want to transfer, and in the past, those have not been enough to meet the NCAA’s criteria to grant an appeal for immediate eligibility in many sports.
For years, hardship waivers have generally only been granted in situations in which an athlete needed to transfer to a school closer to home for family reasons — an ailing family member, for example.
Martell’s attorney told the Toledo Blade that the coaching change at Ohio State was a prominent factor in arguing for an appeal and that “There were some things that happened at Ohio State that we can potentially get some relief from the NCAA, and we’re going to try it that way.”
Now there admittedly could have been more to what he characterized as “some things,” but as Zach Barnett of Football Scoop pointed out a couple of months ago: “According to the cards his attorney has publicly laid on the table, there’s nothing at all remarkable about the Tate Martell case. If Martell plays in 2019, what grounds would the NCAA have to prevent any transfer from being immediately eligible for any reason?”
If indeed Martell was deemed ineligible at Miami simply because he had a new coach and additional competition for his position at Ohio State, that precedent is a major game changer for all Division I sports.
It would be nearly impossible now for the NCAA to justify disallowing immediate eligibility to someone in a similar situation.
And you know what? … That’s a good thing.
Criticism has existed against the NCAA for a long time over players being punished for transferring and having to sit out a season.
If those days are indeed gone, which this ruling seems to suggest, then the NCAA should acknowledge that change and move on, so it can allow all athletes — even the ones who don’t have the means to hire an attorney — to be aware of the fact that he or she has the same option available.
OK, you’ve gotta feel for whoever it was at ESPN who messed up in broadcasting the women’s NCAA Tournament field hours before its selection show. Credit to ESPN for owning up to the mistake.
And here’s my question: If you know the pairings that early, why were you making everyone wait all day anyway? As someone who had to push to book flights and hotel rooms Sunday night, I can attest to the fact the timing of these things do matter. Coaches probably also would like a few extra hours to begin scouting an unknown opponent. Perhaps this was a sign that it’s time for television to get out of the way and just announce the field Monday morning anyway? Just a thought.
It doesn’t get much more underdog than Kentucky’s opponent Thursday night.
Really love this.