The NCAA has recently made it marginally easier for Division I athletes to transfer schools without losing a year of eligibility. The summiting of this particular mountaintop will see athletes transferring according to their own priorities with absolute freedom, but the NCAA will fight that tooth and nail to the bitter end. In the meantime, even their new, more relaxed transfer rules still make room to utterly screw over their unpaid laborers for arbitrary and ridiculous reasons.
Virginia Tech lineman Brock Hoffman applied for something called a medical family hardship waiver in March. Hoffman transferred to Virginia Tech from Coastal Carolina in order to be closer to his mother, Stephanie, who had surgery to remove a brain tumor in 2017 and is still suffering from aftereffects, including “facial paralysis, hearing loss and impaired eyesight.” The medical waiver is ostensibly designed for cases just such as these, when a player seeks to transfer closer to home as a result of a family medical situation, and where a loss of eligibility would be even more inappropriately punitive and unfair than usual.
Which makes the NCAA’s handling of this case seem unnecessarily burdened by red tape, and awfully cold, even before you get to their ruling. Per the Roanoke Times:
The NCAA had some follow-up questions for Hoffman a few weeks later—how often would you be able to take care of your mom during the season? How much easier would it be for your family to get to games? They also wanted a chronological timeline of events from his mother’s initial diagnosis to her surgery and all her doctor appointments.
Not once did the process involve Hoffman talking to an actual person. That remained true on Tuesday when it was left to [offensive line coach Vance Vice] to share the news and share what the NCAA told the athletic department’s compliance department.
And what had the NCAA told the athletic department’s compliance department? Do you even need to ask? Of course they denied the waiver request:
Hoffman says the NCAA gave two reasons for denying the waiver: that Stephanie’s condition has improved over time (which only an organization as vile as the NCAA could turn into bad news); and that Virginia Tech technically is not within 100 miles of Hoffman’s family’s home, which is the maximum distance allowed in order for a player to qualify for a medical family hardship waiver. The exception is meant to allow players to transfer close to home in response to hardship—by the NCAA’s warped logic, though the transfer will cut more than two hours off of Hoffman’s trip home, and more than halve the duration of the journey, because Virginia Tech is five miles outside the 100 mile radius, the transfer does not qualify for the exception.
What’s especially infuriating about this is Coastal Carolina head coach Joe Moglia resigned his position in June, which opened an opportunity for players (like Hoffman) who were recruited by Moglia to take an exception and transfer to another program without penalty. Hoffman sought the medical waiver instead because, in his words, “the medical hardship waiver literally fits my situation.” But the experts at the NCAA looked at photos of the tumor in his mother’s brain and the scars on her scalp, and worked out the mileage of his drive to see her, and decided instead to dock Hoffman this year of his eligibility.
Hoffman is appealing the NCAA’s ruling, and the NCAA will reportedly rule on his appeal within a week. What a bunch of assholes.