Fall Sports

Brenton Cox, the Transfer Portal, and A Quest for Eligibility

Photo by Joe Robbins / Getty Images

One of the hottest topics this off-season has been the transfer portal. Since its inception, the portal has brought about college football’s equivalent of free-agency. Players have used the new transfer system with great enthusiasm in an unending search for greener pastures.

I’m not suggesting that every player that has entered into the portal has done so for shallow or self-serving reasons. In fact, there have been many cases where the portal has been beneficial to an athlete who had a reasonable cause for departure.

Truth be told, I remain relatively neutral in the debate surrounding the transfer portal. I see it’s pros and cons accepting them for what they are. The portal is quite simply the next evolution of the collegiate game.

What I do take exception to, is the NCAA’s incomprehensible inconsistencies in determining which players are granted immediate eligibility after transferring, and which ones are not. There has been a myriad of high-profile players that are cleared for virtually no reason at all, while others are denied when they are attempting to be closer to an ailing family member.

Whether everyone sits out for a season or they all play immediately, the NCAA needs to be transparent and consistent in their decision making process.

Currently, Florida is seeking a pair of waivers for former five-star Georgia Bulldogs linebacker/defensive end Brenton Cox. Because he transferred within the conference, Cox requires a separate SEC waiver to be signed by commissioner Greg Sankey.

When asked about the waivers and the possibility that Cox could become eligible to play this season, Dan Mullen responded, “We feel good about it, of having him be able to play. I think you look at all previous scenarios that are out there around the country, we feel we have a good opportunity.”

The scenarios Mullen is referring to are those of players like former Gators signee Chris Steele. Steele transferred from Florida to Oregon and was granted immediate eligibility based on a claim that Florida didn’t allow him a dorm reassignment when he complained about his roommate, former freshman quarterback Jalon Jones. Jones left the program not long before Steele transferred, following a pair of sexual assault accusations levied against him.

Still another high-profile transfer who was granted immediate eligibility is University of Miami quarterback Tate Martell. He was granted immediate eligibility when he chose to transfer from Ohio State after the arrival of yet another transfer, Justin Fields.

Fields may have the best eligibility claim of all the aforementioned players. He left Georgia, citing a culture of racial hostility after Georgia baseball player Adam Sasser made some racially charged comments about him.

Despite this appearing to be an isolated incident that led to the dismissal of Sasser, no person should be subjected to this treatment. Ultimately, the incident allowed Fields to transfer without penalty even though he chose to wait until the end of the season to enter the portal.

With the exception of a few, the appearance has been that if you are a high-profile athlete, you really only need to feel a modicum of discontent with you current situation in order to qualify for an NCAA waiver.

All of this is to say, Brenton Cox should be made eligible immediately if for no other reason than the consistent inconsistency of college football’s governing body. He has just as much of a case for his transfer as many of those who went before him have had.

He doesn’t have much of a case, you say? Well, that’s kind of my point. None of these players really had much reason to leave their original schools -Fields being the exception- other than they weren’t happy with where they were ending up on the field or on the bench.

Cox left Georgia on his own, hoping to find a better fit for his career. Although, Cox was arrested for misdemeanor marijuana possession back in April, he also earned the University of Georgia’s student athlete of the week honors during his time there.

Just like every other person who has entered the portal, Cox has made mistakes but has also shown the potential to be a model of success. Despite this, the staff at Georgia had different plans for Cox and he made his decision based on those plans and what he believes to be the best move for his own path.

It is for this reason, I believe Cox deserves that opportunity. He has the chance for a fresh start at Florida, much like Fields, Martell, and Steele have at their respective landing destinations. Based on decisions made by the NCAA in their cases, I feel that he deserves that fresh start and he deserves it immediately.

Tom Mars, the attorney that assisted Justin Fields in his transfer and eligibility hearing, claims that Cox has zero chance for immediate eligibility and doesn’t agree with Mullen’s comments on previous cases.

“This comment from coach Mullen typifies part of the root problem with the current thinking about waivers,” said Mars. “It’s impossible to generalize about these cases and it’s irrational for anyone to think that just because this or that player got a waiver, some other player with different circumstances should probably get one, too.”

While Mars is correct that all individual cases have their own unique nuances, the common thread that binds them together is that they are all taking advantage of a new system. One in which the NCAA has yet to provide and adhere to a clear and rigid set of guidelines to determine which cases should be determined to be eligible and those that must face the one year transfer penalty.

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