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Cade Mays cleared to play this season by NCAA

His appeal won out, and just one more barrier stands in the way.

NCAA Football: Georgia at Florida Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Jeremy Pruitt confirmed in a Thursday press conference that transfer Cade Mays won his appeal, and will be eligible to play for Tennessee football in 2020. The only barrier left is the SEC clearance.

“Today we heard back from the NCAA. They approved Cade’s appeal,” Pruitt told reporters today. “This has always been a two-step process. 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 to Greg much about it.”

The original transfer announcement back in January was met with celebration by Tennessee fans, who recognized the immediate impact of the move. Mays was a Freshman All-SEC selection in 2018, and full season starter for the Georgia Bulldogs in 2019. He was viewed as one of the better guards in the conference, and arguably a top-30 guard nationally. The prevailing thought was, as long as he gets cleared to play, he would start for the Volunteers.

The NCAA threw a wrench in the original plans when it released their initial ruling in August. They denied Mays’ waiver, even amidst the commotion of coronavirus and questions about eligibility. The decision was met with disdain from Tennessee players, coaches, and fans alike. Mays’ team made it clear he would appeal.

Well, it looks like the appeal worked. Now all that is left is an approval from the conference—a much dicier affair than it would seem. In general, conferences are wary of allowing immediate eligibility when it’s a transfer between fellow conference teams. Tennessee and Georgia being in the same division means it’s more questionable than fans would like. There is no word yet on when the SEC decision will be handed down.

For now, Tennessee might be better off preparing for a season without Mays. The NCAA clearance was a huge step in the process, but there’s no telling when the SEC will actually give their ruling. That’s an issue when the season is less than two weeks away. At the very least, the Volunteers should be making sure that their 2nd string guard options are getting a similar amount of reps.