In the second episode of our new Hokie Hangover podcast, I addressed the situation of Virginia Tech offensive lineman Brock Hoffman, who had his waiver to be eligible immediately denied by the NCAA on Wednesday. I talked about how I saw the view of both sides and how the NCAA really needs to clean up the mess that is the transfer process.
Now, I feel the need to retract the first part of what I said and restate my view.
See, Hoffman’s case has a close example, that of former Virginia Tech commit and Auburn defensive back Cam’Ron Kelly, who has since transferred to North Carolina. Kelly’s reason for applying for the waiver was that he was moving closer to home (Chesapeake, Va.) to help with his mother and sister, both of whom are dealing with health issues.
Kelly’s waiver was granted on Wednesday, allowing him to be eligible to play this season. And this is when I started rethinking my position.
How is Hoffman supposed to feel now, when his mother is recovering from a surgery to have a brain tumor removed and he makes the same case as Kelly, and is denied? What’s the difference?
I had sympathy for the NCAA’s reported reasoning, which was that Hoffman didn’t transfer immediately after his mother’s surgery and instead waited two seasons. That was after the original reason, which was that Blacksburg was five miles outside of the 100-mile radius the NCAA arbitrarily set for players to be eligible for waivers. Hoffman’s old school, Coastal Carolina, was a four-hour drive from his hometown of Statesville, N.C. Being at Virginia Tech cuts that drive in half.
According to the Roanoke Times, the NCAA even had the nerve to ask why Brock’s mom, Stephanie, didn’t retire from her job as a teacher after all of this. As it turns out, the Hoffmans have nearly a million dollars in medical bills that need to be paid off and his mom does not yet qualify for a pension. So the NCAA feels it just to punish a player because his mom is fighting to work again after severe surgery?
Perhaps the kicker to the whole situation is that the NCAA judged Hoffman’s case based on a set of new arbitrary rules set in June, when Hoffman’s case began in March.
This situation gets even more ludicrous when you consider the cases of now Georgia quarterback Justin Fields and now Miami quarterback Tate Martell, both of whom transferred for reasons related to playing time. Neither player has reasons relating to family health that have been reported, and both players are eligible for this season. Both are former elite-level prospects, and both are playing for high-profile programs.
The NCAA has an obligation to set the record straight and tell us what the hell is going on. The NCAA should be ashamed of the process that they have put in place, which doesn’t even include NCAA employees responsible for resolving the case. The process is confusing at best and manipulative at worst, leaving many wondering if the NCAA is looking out for blue-blood programs while ignoring the rest of the nation.
No one has yet to come up with a perfect process to allow kids to transfer to other programs. An unhinged transfer market could create college free agency, leaving programs outside the top-10 or top-15 helpless in terms of retaining their talent. But surely, the wonderful folks at the NCAA can come up with a process that doesn’t screw over a college-aged kid who wants to be two hours closer to his mother, who still deals with facial paralysis and is going blind in her left eye and deaf in her left ear.
I regret not taking a harsher stance on this on the Hokie Hangover, and I’m thankful to have thought this through and come to a better conclusion. Ignore everything related to the actual game of football — Hoffman should be playing for the Hokies this season. The fact that he won’t be is a testament to the NCAA’s incompetence and perceived bias, which gets worse season after season.