KNOXVILLE – Cade Mays moved one big step closer to the playing field for Tennessee this fall.
The Vols offensive lineman, who transferred from Georgia during the offseason, has been granted a transfer waiver by the NCAA. He now awaits clearance from the SEC before being able to play this season. UT coach Jeremy Pruitt updated Mays’ status on a Zoom teleconference Thursday night.
“This has always been a two-step process,” Pruitt said.
“The next thing is the SEC, so it’s good that our governing body decided to allow him to play. Now, we go to the SEC, and I’ve not really had a chance to talk with (commissioner) Greg (Sankey) much about it.”
In the meantime, Pruitt paid his respects to Sankey’s role in guiding the conference during the COVID-19 pandemic. If a compliment serves UT’s purpose then Pruitt was wise to lavish the commissioner with praise. It’s worth noting that the SEC has not allowed immediate eligibility on intraconference transfers in the past.
Until recently, the conference wouldn’t allow graduate transfers to be eligible immediately if they transferred within the league. UT center Brandon Kennedy was one of the first exceptions. He got an extra season at Tennessee after suffering an ACL knee injury in the 2018 season opener against West Virginia.
“I know this, and in this whole thing from this pandemic, Greg Sankey has done a great job from a leadership standpoint with everybody within the conference,” Pruitt said, “and his No. 1 thing has always been the protection of the players and putting our student-athletes first. I have a lot of confidence in the outcome.”
The 6-foot-6, 320-pound Mays, who was a five-star prospect at Knoxville’s Catholic High School, started 18 games in two seasons at Georgia. He’d be an immediate starter on Tennessee’s offensive line.
Mays’ parents filed a lawsuit against Georgia and others in December after Cade’s father, Kevin, an All-SEC lineman at Tennessee in the 1990s, suffered a partially severed pinkie in a folding chair during a recruiting visit to Athens, Ga., in 2017. Knoxville attorney Greg Isaacs began representing Cade during his appeal.
Fellow UT lineman Trey Smith weighed in on Cade’s behalf in blunt fashion earlier this week before the NCAA ruling.
“The people eating and drinking in meeting rooms that don’t want to clear this kid who is busting his butt, sweating, bleeding and getting hit on the field consistently, then that’s their choice,” Smith said. “but do right by a kid who is trying to do right and bust his butt every day. That is how I look at it.”
One group of people has put down their knives and forks and heeded Smith’s words. Now it’s the SEC’s turn.
Dan Fleser is a 1980 graduate of the University of Missouri, who covered University of Tennessee athletics from 1988-2019. He can be reached at email@example.com.