The NCAA thought it was doing its athletes a solid by liberalizing the rules governing which players are granted immediate eligibility upon transferring from one school to another. Reality, though, has proven much trickier.
We already have one martyr to the system in the form of ex-Georgia tight end Luke Ford, who says his immediate eligibility application at Illinois was denied because the Illini’s Champaign campus is not close enough to his ailing grandfather. It appears we may have another.
On Tuesday, Cincinnati offensive line transfer James Hudson went public after he says the NCAA denied his waiver because he did not go public with the mental health struggles that prompted the transfer.
“The University of Cincinnati filed a waiver for me to be immediately eligible,” Hudson wrote in a note posted to his Twitter account. “The NCAA has denied my waiver because I never spoke up about my mental struggles to administration at the University of Michigan.
“Like many football players I was afraid to speak up about my depression not looking to look weak. Now the NCAA is telling me that my courage to step forward and speak about my issues was done too late and subjectively my ‘Circumstances do not warrant relief.'”
To play devil’s advocate: it is possible there are simply no bad guys here. As Hudson states above, mental health struggles happen below the surface — Hudson himself said he concealed his illness — so it’s possible that Michigan, and thus the NCAA, simply had no way of knowing Hudson was battling mental illness when his waiver was being decided, because Hudson never told them out of fear of appealing weak.
Cincinnati has the opportunity to appeal the decision, so perhaps this new, relevant information will change the organization’s decision. (As it stands today, though, Hudson, a 4-star recruit out of Toledo, will sit out 2019 and then have the opportunity to play as a redshirt junior in 2020.)
However, it appears Hudson will now learn the lesson that Ford is in the process of learning the hard (and difficult) way: your waiver’s approval often depends on whether or not you have Tom Mars on your payroll.