- Oct 27, 2006
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A tough offseason for Illinois continued on Friday.
The school announced that the appeal it filed on behalf of Luke Ford, a talented tight end transfer from Georgia, was denied by the NCAA Division I Appeals Committee. The decision, which is “final and binding” per NCAA guidelines, means Ford will not be eligible to play for the Illini in 2019. After a redshirt season, Ford can return to action in 2020.
Ford, the top tight end recruit in the 2018 class, transferred from Georgia to Illinois in order to be closer to his grandfather. An initial request for immediate eligibility was denied by the NCAA in April. In a press release, Illinois said the NCAA’s appeal decision was “based on guidelines used during the original decision.”
According to multiple outlets, Ford’s initial waiver was turned down because Illinois’ campus in Champaign is more than 100 miles from Ford’s hometown of Cartersville, Illinois (there are no D-I schools within 100 miles of Cartersville), and Ford’s grandfather is not a member of his “nuclear” family. Those are both requirements for the NCAA to grant hardship waivers.
"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," his father Tim Ford told ESPN in April.
With all of the waivers the NCAA has granted in the last few years — players like Shea Patterson, Justin Fields and Tate Martell, who leaned on the loosely-defined “mitigating circumstances” wording added to the NCAA rulebook in April 2018, come to mind — Illinois thought it had a good shot to get Ford on the field in 2019. Both head coach Lovie Smith and athletic director Josh Whitman said as much earlier this year. But the NCAA leaned on its requirements for a hardship waiver, and ultimately ruled against Ford’s case.