Ford was the top 2018 recruit from the state of Illinois, per 247 Sports, which ranked him as the third-best tight end in the country and the No. 51 player overall. He was slated to earn quality playing time in 2019 after appearing in nine games for the Bulldogs as a freshman in 2018, catching one pass for four yards.
In January, he tweeted he was transferring to Illinois, “due to my grandparents’ deteriorating health and my family’s inability to afford to see me play in person each week.”
“Luke and his family are disappointed, of course,” Ford’s attorney Tom Mars told ESPN. “But they’re the kind of people who have the unusual ability to maintain a very positive attitude — even in the face of disappointment. As Luke just said to me in a very grateful way, ‘Sometimes it works out, and sometimes it doesn’t.' ”
Mars, who also represented quarterbacks Justin Fields (Georgia to Ohio State) and Shea Patterson (Ole Miss to Michigan) as they earned immediate eligibility transfer waivers, added, “Requests for reconsideration and appeals of transfer waivers are like watching a football game in overtime. Predicting the outcome at that point depends entirely on your personal bias, some hunches, and a lot of wishful thinking.”
Illinois released a statement following the decision:
“The NCAA today informed the University of Illinois that the Division I Appeals Committee for Legislative Relief denied the waiver request filed on behalf of football student-athlete Luke Ford.”
“Ford, who transferred to Illinois from Georgia last winter after his freshman season, had requested immediate eligibility for the 2019 football season. Ford will now sit out the 2019 season as a year in residence and practice with the team before regaining eligibility in 2020.”
“The NCAA based the decision on guidelines used during the original decision. No further appeal is available and the decision is final and binding.”
Part of the NCAA’s original argument for denial was that Ford’s grandfather was not a part of his “nuclear family” and that the Illinois campus in Champaign wasn’t within 100 miles of Ford’s hometown of Carterville.
Ford is at least the third player this offseason dealing with family or self-hardships who has been denied an immediate eligibility waiver by the NCAA after transferring to another school.
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