The Florida Gators are seeking a waiver from the NCAA and SEC so that new transfer linebacker Brenton Cox can play football in 2019.
On Monday Florida Gators head coach Dan Mullen stated the obvious — that Florida would at least try to get a waiver for Cox — but he also expressed optimism with how he thinks the outcome play out.
“We’re definitely going to apply for a waiver for him and see; I think, we hope, we feel good about it, of having him be able to play,” Mullen said Monday. “I think you look at all the previous scenarios that are out there around the country, we feel we have a good opportunity.”
Mullen wouldn’t divulge what made him feel this way or specifics on how Florida and Cox will make an argument for his immediate eligibility, just like a defense lawyer wouldn’t give his opening statement to the prosecutor two weeks before a trial begins.
Still, it’s not just a NCAA waiver that Cox will need. In 2018 the SEC relaxed a rule that explicitly stated a player transferring from one SEC team to another would have to sit out a season without exception. The new rule allows for graduate transfers or players leaving a SEC school that is under NCAA sanctions to be immediate eligible without filing for a waiver from the league. Cox does not fit either of those criteria so Florida will have to receive waivers from the NCAA and the SEC.
The NCAA has seen an incredible surge in transfers since the creation of the transfer portal and the governing body has received criticism with some of their decisions. At times it would appear that the NCAA is throwing waivers around like candy on Halloween but then players like Luke Ford (Tennessee to Illinois) and Brock Hoffman (Coastal Carolina to Virginia Tech) who have very real legitimate cases are denied waivers.
There are 13 guidelines the NCAA looks at when a player or school is asking for a waiver. In June the NCAA made changes to four of those criteria, requiring that the school or player filing give even more documentation supporting their case. The changes are as follows.
1) When a student-athlete transfers because he or she “no longer has the opportunity to participate” at their previous school, there must be documentary evidence that the student-athlete is in good academic standing and making progress toward a degree. Also, the previous school must indicate where the student-athlete was dismissed from the team or could have returned to the team.
2) When a student-athlete transfers because he or she believes he or she “is the victim of egregious behavior directly impacting his or her health, safety or well-being,” the new school must provide documentation on how this is being addressed at the new school. In addition, the previous school must provide a statement from the athletic to that effect.
3) When a student-athlete seeks to transfer in order to be closer to an ill family member, the new school must provide “contemporaneous medical documentation from the treating physician showing how the family member is debilitated” as well as how the student-athlete will help provide care for the family member. The new school must also be within 100 miles of the ill family member.
4) When a student-athlete seeks to transfer closer to home in case of their own illness, debilitating injury or mental health condition, the school must provide documentation regarding the need to do so. The new school must also be within 100 miles of the student’s home.
Florida could make an argument on the first rule listed above. Cox wouldn’t have been accepted into the University of Florida if he were not in good academic standing at the University of Georgia. There are no documented instances of Cox’s time at Georgia that would make the second rule above pertinent, that’s not to say that something could have happened but wasn’t reported. The second two do not apply.
Cox entered the transfer portal on Monday August, 5 and was enrolled at Florida on Friday August 9. The process went quickly do in part to Cox’s past relationship with some of the staff at Florida through recruiting as well as his relationships with some of the players on Florida’s staff. The distance, under a five hour drive, was also a factor in coming to Florida.
“Some of the players reached out and said he had called some of the players to ask about us. Dealing with his high school coaches, talking to him, talking to his mom. It’s a unique deal. Because of the timing, he’s not allowed to take an official visit,” Mullen said referencing the dead period that recruiting is in right now. “We asked. We tried to apply, can there be some relief? Part of the transfer portal, you know what I mean? There’s a lot of different things that come up. This is the first time something like this has come up for us. They said no, but going through everything one of the ones of him wanted to move quickly on it to get to a school and get this waiver process started for him started and coming here so he’s got the opportunity to play.”
It remains to be seen if Cox will be allowed to play for the Gators in the fall but for now he’s a member of the team, able to work out and practice whenever the Gators do so.