On Tuesday night, incoming Virginia Tech lineman Brock Hoffman announced that the NCAA had denied his final appeal for immediate eligibility, which meant Hoffman will be forced to sit out the upcoming season. Hoffman has been scuffling with the NCAA over the particulars of his transfer from Coastal Carolina to Virginia Tech on a medical family hardship waiver since the organization initially denied his request in April. This week’s final ruling lays bare just how broken the NCAA’s process is.
Hoffman said he chose to transfer to the Hokies to be closer to his mother Stephanie, while she recovers from a series of 2017 surgeries to remove a non-cancerous brain tumor. The surgeries saved her life, but she is going blind in her left eye, is deaf in her left ear, and suffers from facial paralysis.
Theoretically, Hoffman was the perfect candidate for the medical family hardship waiver, since he halved his commute by moving two hours closer to his family’s home in Statesville, North Carolina. Brock’s father Brian is a recruiter who needs to travel for work, and Brock regularly is responsible for driving his mother to her appointments in Winston-Salem. The NCAA’s initial grounds for denial—Blacksburg is five miles outside the accepted 100-mile radius for such waivers; Stephanie’s condition has improved over time—were bullcrap. Laid out, the process is reminiscent of the evil you’d find in a health-insurance horror story—except in this case, the NCAA isn’t even providing that for Brock’s mom, while it also superficially questions the circumstances that force her to keep working.
According to Mike Niziolek of the Roanoke Times, the NCAA questioned the seriousness of Hoffman’s mother’s condition and reasoned that it could not be all that severe since she hadn’t retired from her job as a schoolteacher. “We have almost a million dollars of medical bills,” Brian Hoffman said. “She’s a teacher and doesn’t have enough years to get full pay from her pension. We simply couldn’t afford it.”
The NCAA also denied the waiver because Brock initiated transfer procedures two years after Stephanie had her first surgery. A new rule, stating that transfers for family medical reasons “must occur within or immediately after the academic year,” was put into place over the summer. Brian told The Athletic that Brock needed to wait since Stephanie’s surgeries stretched through the better part of a year, and he needed a season to prove his on-field worth to new coaching staffs:
“It’s just been ongoing and ongoing,” Brian Hoffman said. “I mean, here we are, basically the fifth or sixth time we’ve gone back and forth with these folks, and now it’s a no for another different reason. It’s not even the original reason they gave us. So they’re nitpicking this thing to death, and I don’t know why. We don’t know why. It’s a totally different reason they gave this time.”
This all took place, it should be noted, before the opening of the transfer portal, which could possibly have made the whole process smoother, though as several other transfer sagas have shown, there really is no such thing as fair player movement in the NCAA.