With consideration for the “current circumstances resulting from disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic,” the SEC has adjusted its rules to allow immediate eligibility for players who have transferred within the conference.
Subsequently, waivers for players like Kentucky quarterback Joey Gatewood, who transferred from Auburn, and Tennessee offensive lineman Cade Mays, formerly of Georgia, have been approved.
The SEC previously only allowed immediate eligibility for in-conference transfers for graduate transfers and for players leaving programs facing a postseason ban from the NCAA.
In a statement, SEC commissioner Greg Sankey said that the conference’s decision to approve these waivers is “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.”
"These are unprecedented times in which decisions about eligibility and competitive opportunities demand consideration of the current challenges facing student-athletes and schools as a result of COVID-19,” Sankey’s statement said. “In a non-COVID environment there may have been a different outcome for some of the waiver requests determined today."
The SEC did not specify how many waivers it granted, but Kentucky and Tennessee both announced that Gatewood and Mays are eligible to play this season.
“We’re excited that Joey Gatewood has received waivers from the NCAA and SEC and will be eligible to play this season,” UK head coach Mark Stoops tweeted. “We’re thankful that the SEC presidents and commissioner Greg Sankey took into account the unique circumstances around this season.”
Gatewood competed with Bo Nix for the starting role last year, but ended up serving as the backup. He will likely serve as Kentucky’s No. 2 quarterback behind senior Terry Wilson, but could still see some playing time, especially in running packages.
Mays, who made 18 starts over the last two seasons for Georgia, released a statement thanking those who worked on his eligibility case.
In Sankey’s statement, he said the conference’s transfer rules “must undergo a thorough review” before the 2021-22 academic year.
"Our member institutions have been clear in the past that they oppose immediate eligibility for intraconference transfers," Sankey said. "Given the increased number of waiver requests this year, and a changing national landscape related to student-athlete transfer issues, it is evident that the current transfer bylaw must undergo a thorough review by Conference membership in the most timely manner possible and prior to the 2012-22 academic year."
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