The Brock Hoffman situation is truly the NCAA at its worst.
Hoffman transferred to Virginia Tech from Coastal Carolina and sought a waiver for immediate eligibility. It wasn't because he had lost a position battle, it wasn't because of a coaching change, it wasn't because of grades (Hoffman had a 4.0 GPA in the spring and fall semester in 2018). Hoffman transferred because he wanted to be closer to his mother who is suffering aftereffects after having a brain tumor surgically removed.
And the NCAA denied him.
This is the latest misstep by an organization that is seemingly incapable of making reasonable, smart decisions regarding student-athletes that no one could possibly have a problem with.
The decision by the NCAA, issued Tuesday, is a blow to the Hokies' offensive line. Hoffman would likely have been the starting center this year. But that is completely beside the point. Virginia Tech fans should not be mad about this because of what it does to the offensive line, people, in general, should be mad about this because of how outrageously stupid and indefensible it is and because of a total lack of consistency in the process when it comes to granting immediate eligibility.
Stephanie Hoffman was diagnosed with an acoustic neuroma, a non-cancerous brain tumor, in January 2017. Brock enrolled at Coastal Carolina that year. After several surgeries, the tumor was removed, but Stephanie still suffers from its effects. Coastal Carolina is located in Conway, S.C. which is about a four-hour drive from the Hoffman's home in Statesville, N.C. Brock decided to transfer in February to be closer to home and chose Virginia Tech. Blacksburg is about two hours from Statesville, cutting Brock's trip home in half.
Filing and denial
When the words "brain tumor" and "mother" are used in the same sentence, no more explanation should be necessary. But the NCAA has its rules for immediate eligibility so Hoffman filed for a family medical hardship waiver in March. One month later, he was denied. Hoffman filed multiple appeals and provided documentation of his mother's condition, but to no avail. His final appeal was denied Tuesday.
The NCAA's process
In June, the NCAA changed the language regarding waivers for immediate eligibility saying a player must have "documented extenuating, extraordinary and mitigating circumstances outside of the student-athlete's control that directly impacts the health, safety or well-being of the student-athlete."
The NCAA made the rule stricter in the wake of criticism over granting too many waivers, such as quarterback Tate Martell who transferred from Ohio State soon after quarterback Justin Fields transferred in. This led many to assume Martell was transferring because of competition. Yet, Martell was granted immediate eligibility at Miami.
A situation like Hoffman's, to most sane and rational people, was not the type of situation the NCAA's stricter wording was meant to target.
No straight answer
Not only was Hoffman's waiver denied, but every explanation for the denial was baffling.
As Hoffman noted in his Tweet, Blacksburg falls just outside the 100-mile radius the NCAA gives in its guidelines. The real egregious explanation, however, is the fact that the NCAA apparently felt Hoffman's mother's condition had improved since he was at Coastal Carolina.
Her condition improved in that she no longer had a life-threatening brain tumor, but, as noted by Hoffman, she still suffered from facial paralysis, hearing loss and eye issues and still has multiple doctor visits that are difficult for her to get to on her own without help. That part, the NCAA evidently did not take into account.
Hoffman's final appeal, however, was denied for a different reason. According to Andy Bitter of The Athletic, Hoffman's final appeal was denied because he did not transfer quickly enough after his mom's initial diagnosis.
To be fair, the final appeal was adjudicated by seven people who were not NCAA employees. Common sense and basic human decency were evidently not required to participate in the said committee.
Imagine you are a kid just about to start college on a football scholarship. Your mom gets diagnosed with a brain tumor and has to undergo several surgeries. Not only do you not know how the life of your entire family is about to change, now you have to worry about a ticking clock hanging over your head because if you don't transfer right away, the NCAA won't think it's all that serious.
Seriously, what's the message here? Does the NCAA think Hoffman is using his mother's brain tumor as an excuse for immediate eligibility?
Oh, and just in case you are not mad enough by this decision, Bitter also noted that the NCAA made its decision without ever talking to Hoffman's family directly.
Well done, NCAA. You are finally getting tough against families with brain tumors. Now you can go back to telling everyone how you have the students' best interests at heart.
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