SEC waivers grant immediate eligibility for some transferring within league

The SEC altered its rules to allow immediate eligibility for intraconference transfers in light of the coronavirus pandemic by approving waivers for some players who transferred within the league, the conference announced on Wednesday.

Previously, the SEC had mandated that players transferring within the league had to sit out a year before they were eligible. Before Wednesday's change, the previous time the SEC adjusted the intraconference transfer rule was in 2018, when it created two exceptions -- one for graduate transfers and one for players on teams facing NCAA postseason bans.

"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," SEC commissioner Greg Sankey said in a statement. "These are unprecedented times in which decisions about eligibility and competitive opportunities demand consideration of the current challenges facing 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."

This latest modification, voted on by the SEC presidents and chancellors, means former Georgia offensive lineman Cade Mays will be eligible this season at Tennessee and former Auburn quarterback Joey Gatewood will be eligible at Kentucky. Both had earlier received waivers from the NCAA, but were waiting to see if the SEC revised its rule on in-league transfers.

Kentucky coach Mark Stoops tweeted that his program was "excited" Gatewood received the waiver to play this season.

The SEC's decision does not affect Ole Miss safety Otis Reese, who played at Georgia last season, because he hasn't received a waiver from the NCAA, sources told ESPN.

The SEC is expected to consider making long-term changes to the rule at a later date.

"Our member institutions have been clear in the past that they oppose immediate eligibility for intraconference transfers," Sankey said in the statement. "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 2012-22 academic year."

With Mays eligible to play this season, that means he will face his old team next week when Tennessee plays at Georgia on Oct. 10. The Vols face Missouri this Saturday at home, and Mays' most likely position is right tackle. Mays posted a statement on social media on Wednesday, thanking those who helped in the eligibility process.

Tennessee coach Jeremy Pruitt said Mays could play anywhere on the offensive line and brings invaluable SEC experience.

"Unless you've played in this league a bunch of years, you're not going to duplicate it in practice, so he's a guy who's been through a lot of wars," Pruitt said of Mays, who made 18 starts in his two seasons at Georgia.