- - Wednesday, August 28, 2019

The National Collegiate Athletic Association cares about colleges a whole lot more than it cares about athletes. No debate there.

The only shock is how often the organization goes above and beyond to prove its true colors.

Maintaining the sham of “amateurism” while coaches, conferences and assorted stakeholders rake billions of dollars is the foundation. Preventing players from profiting off their labor or likeness are the walls. Forbidding unfettered movement among players — opposed to the freedom for job-hopping coaches — is the ceiling.

Well the NCAA raised the roof and lowered itself even further in ruling against offensive lineman Brock Hoffman, who was seeking immediate eligibility this season after transferring to Virginia Tech last winter.

Hoffman, who started for Coastal Carolina the last two seasons, applied for a family medical hardship waiver. He appeared to have a slam-dunk case, wanting to be two hours closer to home to help his mother, still suffering aftereffects from surgery to remove a brain tumor two years ago.

The application originally was filed in late March and rejected a month later. On Tuesday, after several appeals filed by Virginia Tech and extensive documentation of doctors’ notes and Hoffman’s trips home, the NCAA reached its final decision on the Hokies’ projected starting center playing right away:


“I really thought after all the information we gave them – we gave them a book over the summer – we had this thing,” the player’s father, Brian Hoffman, told The Roanoke Times Tuesday. “It was like getting stabbed in the back.”

When players who haven’t graduated attempt to transfer from one FBS school to another, they’re forced to sit out a year unless they’re granted a waiver. The requirement disincentivizes transfer requests and thereby makes life easier for coaches, who’d otherwise have less year-to-year certainty in building their rosters.

The NCAA’s decision-making on waiver applications is wildly inconsistent and wholly incoherent.

Quarterbacks Jalen Hurts and Justin Fields are eligible to play right away at Oklahoma and Ohio State, respectively, after each lost the starting job at their prior schools (Alabama and Georgia). Maryland will field a QB, a receiver, a tight end and two linebackers who played elsewhere last season. A slew of other players across the nation will play immediately at new schools for reasons related to depth charts and coaching staffs.

Meanwhile, Illinois tight end Luke Ford has to sit out after transferring from Georgia to be closer to home and his sick grandfather. Ford’s appeal was denied because his new school is more than 100 miles from his family home and grandfathers don’t qualify as nuclear family members.

According to The Athletic, the NCAA denied Brock Hoffman’s original application because his family home was 105 miles from Blacksburg – five miles beyond the acceptable limit – and the NCAA also deemed that Stephanie Hoffman’s condition was improving. The latter conclusion was partially based on the fact that she still works.

If she’s in such bad shape, the NCAA asked with unmitigated gall, why hasn’t she retired?

“We have almost a million dollars of medical bills,” Brian Hoffman told The Roanoke Times. “She’s a teacher and doesn’t have enough years to get full pay from her pension. We simply couldn’t afford it.”

But the story gets worse. The Athletic reports that the ultimate rejection wasn’t due to proximity or Stephanie’s progress; it was a matter of the calendar. Brock Hoffman didn’t transfer quickly enough, not within the academic year after his mother’s diagnosis.

“Here we are, basically the fifth or sixth time we’ve gone back and forth with these folks, and now it’s a no for another different reason,” Brian Hoffman told The Athletic. “It’s not even the original reason they gave us. So they’re nitpicking this thing to death and I don’t know why.”

I don’t know why, either, besides the organization being heartless, soulless and mindless.

College football wouldn’t suffer if Hoffman was allowed to play right away. The massive paychecks from broadcasters wouldn’t cease. The sale of tickets, concessions, and merchandise wouldn’t dip. The sponsors and advertisers wouldn’t vanish.

Only the Hoffmans are hurt by the decision. As if the family hasn’t endured enough since January 2017, when Stephanie had the first of several surgeries for a non-cancerous brain tumor.

“It should have been an open-and-shut case, honestly,” Brock Hoffman told reporters in April after his initial request was denied. “It’s kind of like a punch in the gut.”

Below the belt is more accurate, but that figures.

Low blows are an NCAA specialty.

Deron Snyder writes his award-winning column for The Washington Times on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Follow him on Twitter @DeronSnyder.

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