Commissioner Sankey agrees to approve waivers for players transferring within SEC

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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — Southeastern Conference commissioner Greg Sankey has agreed to approve transfer waiver requests for players who switched schools inside the league.

Sankey announced the decision Wednesday night after previously saying schools should vote to change the rule forcing players transferring inside the SEC to sit out a year rather than ask for a waiver.

The NCAA already had approved transfer waivers for Kentucky quarterback Joey Gatewood and Tennessee offensive lineman Cade Mays who also needed SEC approval to play immediately. Mississippi defensive back Otis Reese still is waiting for NCAA approval of his waiver appeal.

Sankey noted a change also is likely due to NCAA transfer legislation and the current coronavirus pandemic.

“It must be stated unequivocally that these approvals are 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,” Sankey said in a statement.

But Sankey said these are “unprecedented times” with players and schools facing challenges because of COVID-19.

“In a non-COVID environment there may have been a different outcome for some of the waiver requests determined today,” Sankey said.

Mays transferred from Georgia with his father suing the university over an incident where Kevin Mays lost part of his little finger when it was caught in a folding chair at a dinner for recruits at Sanford Stadium. Tennessee announced Sept. 17 that the NCAA had approved Mays’ appeal after his waiver request was denied.

The offensive lineman has been expected to start for the 21st-ranked Volunteers once available. He quickly shared his reaction on Twitter.

“Let’s ride,” Mays wrote.

Because they transferred from one SEC school to another – Gatewood transferred from Auburn, and Mays and Reese transferred from Georgia – they must gain waivers from both the NCAA and the conference to play immediately.

Reese is a defensive back who transferred from Georgia in January after playing in 25 career games and starting once in 2018 and 2019. Coach Lane Kiffin has indicated he would likely be a starter if eligible at Ole Miss.

The defensive back says he left Georgia because of racist treatment on campus, and Reese contends coach Kirby Smart manipulated him to continue playing for the Bulldogs last season after he expressed his intention to transfer.

Gatewood is a former Auburn backup who is likely to play behind starter Terry Wilson. The 6-foot-4, 221-pound Gatewood left the Tigers last October after playing in four games, leaving him eligible under NCAA standards to play this season. The former four-star recruit is a dual-threat used mostly as a runner by Auburn, gaining 176 yards on the ground and passing for 54.

Gatewood will have two years of eligibility remaining and Kentucky coach Mark Stoops said in a statement he was “excited” to have him this fall.

“We’re thankful that the SEC Presidents and Commissioner Greg Sankey took into account the unique circumstances around this season,” Stoops added.

Sankey said SEC members clearly opposed immediate eligibility for players transferring inside the league in the past. He noted the league had an increased number of waiver requests this year along with a changing attitude toward player transfers nationally.

“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 2021-22 academic year,” Sankey said.

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