New Illinois TE Ford has eligibility denied

Illinois tight end Luke Ford had his waiver request for immediate eligibility denied Wednesday by the NCAA.

Ford, who transferred to Illinois from Georgia, tweeted the news Wednesday and Illinois confirmed it to A native of Carterville, Illinois, Ford had one reception last year for Georgia and appeared mostly on special teams. ESPN rated him as the No. 3 tight end, No. 63 overall player and No. 1 prospect from Illinois in the 2018 recruiting class.

Illinois will appeal the decision.

"We're all disappointed Luke Ford's waiver request for immediate eligibility was denied," Illinois spokesman Kent Brown said in a prepared statement. "There is an appeal process that we intend to help Luke explore."

Ford cited his ailing grandfather as the main reason for his decision to transfer to Illinois. But Ford's father, Tim, told's Tom VanHaaren that the distance from the family home in Carterville to Illinois' campus in Champaign -- more than 100 miles -- might have impacted the NCAA's decision to deny the waiver request.

"He's leaving the Taj Mahal of facilities [at Georgia] just so his grandpa gets a chance to see him play in person, before it's too late," Tim Ford said, adding that his son "is pretty devastated" about the decision.

Illinois fans recently started a #FreeLukeFord campaign on Twitter, which Ford promoted on his page. Several Illinois coaches used the hashtag in tweets.

"I don't know what the numbers are on how often the appeals are granted if it's originally denied," Tim Ford said. "I'm sure some are. We're hopeful."