The SEC has made an exception for its long-standing intra-conference transfer rules, clearing the way for Cade Mays to be cleared to play for the Vols this weekend against Missouri.
“In consideration of current circumstances resulting from disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, including eligibility relief provided to student-athletes in August by the NCAA, and in anticipation of changes to NCAA transfer legislation, the Southeastern Conference today approved a number of transfer waiver requests that originated from member institutions seeking exceptions to the long-standing Conference bylaw that requires intraconference transfers serve a year in residence before being eligible to compete,” SEC commissioner Greg Sankey said in a press release. “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.
“These are unprecedented times in which decisions about eligibility and competitive opportunities demand consideration of the current challenges facing our student-athletes and schools as a result of COVID-19. In a non-COVID environment there may have been a different outcome for some of the waiver requests determined today.Our member institutions have been clear in the past that they oppose immediate eligibility for intraconference transfers. Given the increased number of waiver requests this year, and a changing national landscape related to student-athlete transfer issues, 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.”
Mays was originally denied immediate eligibility by the NCAA, but won his appeal and only needed clearance from the SEC in order to play this season.
“First, I’d like to start with Chancellor Plowman,” Vols head coach Jeremy Pruitt said during Vol Calls Wednesday night. “She really went to bat for Cade and probably helped navigate this as much as anybody, and Coach Fulmer, of course Commissioner Sankey and William King.
“I just think it’s awesome, not only for Cade, but for everybody else it’s affecting in this pandemic. When you’re around these young men and women every single day, obviously the times are totally different than anything that we’ve ever experienced, and it’s awesome that they’re going to get a chance to do something that they’ve worked so hard to do.”
Mays joined his little brother, Cooper, on campus for the spring semester after Tennessee officially announced the addition of the oldest Mays brother on Jan. 9. The younger Mays brother signed with the Vols during the early signing period as a four-star center out of Knoxville Catholic High School. Cade Mays played at Knoxville Catholic as well, but signed with Georgia out of high school following the firing of Butch Jones. Mays was once committed to the Vols but decommitted prior to Jones’ firing.
“When I found out, I walked all the way around the Anderson Center about three times trying to find him, and he was up in a film room studying film, so I never found him.” Pruitt said. “I finally got him on the phone. He already knew, but he was excited. I know that just the unknowns for him, he really took a chance by deciding to leave the place he chose to go to out of high school.”
Mays was ranked the No. 22 overall player in the class of 2018 according to the 247Sports Composite rankings. He was considered the No. 1 player in the state of Tennessee and the No. 3 offensive tackle in the country.
At Georgia, Mays started six games at right guard, two at right tackle, two at left guard, and one at left tackle as a sophomore this past season, and he even played at center in the Bulldogs’ match-up with Missouri. Mays played in all 14 games this season after playing in 11 of 14 games as a true freshman a season ago. He was named to the coaches’ All-SEC Freshman team in 2018 and was a Freshman All-American as well.
Cade and Cooper’s father, Kevin Mays, played for Tennessee from 1991-1994. He was an All-SEC guard and offensive captain in 1994.
No. 21 Tennessee (1-0) hosts Missouri (0-1) this weekend in its home-opener. Kickoff is scheduled for 12 p.m. ET on the SEC Network.