This was originally published in The Athletic...
I could write a column about James Hudson, the football player who’s transferred from Michigan to Cincinnati, based solely on the fact that the NCAA is a sham. And regardless of where your college football allegiances are aligned, you’d agree because the point is almost inarguable. Writing about the NCAA’s inconsistency and hypocrisy by now is like writing about the misery of visits to the BMV, it’s whacking away at the lowest of all the hanging fruit and getting the reader to nod along about something that no one likes.
The Wolverine-turned-Bearcat offensive lineman applied for a waiver after coming to Cincinnati from Ann Arbor that, if granted, would allow him to play immediately and help out a promising UC squad this fall. Someone felt good enough about the chances of the waiver being granted because Hudson, who started three games for Jim Harbaugh’s perpetually underwhelming team in 2018, spent spring practice working as Luke Fickell’s starting left tackle during spring ball.
Except that the NCAA, which is as arbitrary and random as the sudden cravings of a woman in her second trimester, denied the waiver. This wouldn’t be that big of a deal except that recently revamped transfer rules have cleared the way for dozens of college football players to move from one school to another and bypass the sit-out year – and this is rich – in an effort to “encourage (student-athletes) to make decisions motivated by academics as well as athletics.” It also touts the benefit of student-athletes having – and,this is said by NCAA officials wearing straight faces–”a year to adjust to their new school and focus on their classes.”
I’m trying hard to keep this column on point, which means I won’t devote more than this very paragraph to the absurdity of requiring transferring college athletes to sit out a year. But I wonder how a college football player who, because he’s decided to transfer, can’t play in games but still goes through every practice, makes every weightlifting session, endures every conditioning drill, sits through every film session and attends every team function. All of that while still taking a full course load is somehow better suited to adjust to a new school than if he still did all those things but still dressed for games.
But there are new rules and waivers that give transfers a chance to play without having to sit a year, which is great, especially since it’s been granted so often. According to official NCAA data, the rate of transfer waiver approval for NCAA Division 1 football players from April 1, 2018 (right before the new policies were enacted) through Nov. 9 was 79 percent (50 out of 63), a higher rate than the overall waiver approval for all athletes, which was 66 percent. One of those 50 college football players whose waiver was granted was quarterback Shea Patterson, who was allowed to play immediately for Michigan’s Peach Bowl runners-up squad last year as Hudson’s teammate after transferring from Ole Miss.
More transfer waivers have followed since last college football season ended. Most notably, Justin Fields didn’t want to back up Jake Fromm at Georgia, so he transferred to Ohio State, his family hired an attorney, and he’ll start at QB this fall for the Buckeyes. Tate Martell, as a result, didn’t like losing his gig at OSU, so he found another school. His family also lawyered up and he’ll have a chance to be the starting quarterback for the Miami Hurricanes this season. Just this week, two young men who for some reason decided they wanted to play football at Rutgerswere granted immediate eligibility waivers. One of them, a linebacker named Drew Singleton, spent the last two seasons at Michigan.
His former Wolverine teammate, however, didn’t have the same luck. Hudson’s waiver request was denied, a development that I guess will give him a nice chance to, um, “adjust to his new school and focus on his classes,” but will prevent him from playing football at UC until he sits out a year. I’ll let James take it from here…
To read the rest, go to The Athletic.