Cade Mays' father is suing Georgia. He says his pinkie was severed at a recruiting event.

Blake Toppmeyer
Knoxville News Sentinel

The father of Cade Mays, a former football star for Knoxville Catholic, is suing the University of Georgia after his right pinkie finger got caught in a folding chair and was severed during a 2017 recruiting trip.

The lawsuit is notable because Cade Mays, is transferring to Tennessee from Georgia, UT announced Thursday.

Court documents obtained by Knox News state that Kevin Mays' finger "shot across the floor" after it was severed before it was retrieved by an assistant coach and put on ice. Kevin Mays is suing the university’s athletic association and board of regents, among other parties.

The lawsuit was filed on Dec. 5 in the State Court of Clarke County in Georgia.

Cade Mays shows a Georgia T-shirt as he stands between his dad, Kevin, and mom, Melinda, during a signing day  ceremony at Knoxville Catholic High School in Knoxville, Tenn., Wednesday, Dec. 20, 2017. Kevin Mays is suing Georgia for an injury to his right pinkie finger.

Cade Mays will seek a transfer waiver, which would allow for immediate eligibility. The lawsuit could weigh in his favor, said B. David Ridpath, an associate professor of sports administration at Ohio University who is an expert on NCAA matters.

“It could be a circumstance of where, ‘Hey, my dad is suing Georgia. It’s very uncomfortable. I don’t know if there could be retaliation against me.’ ... That certainly sounds like a reason for (an NCAA) waiver of the one year residency,” Ridpath told Knox News.

It has become the norm for transferring players to apply for a waiver and take their chances with the process. Players are not required to publicly disclose their grounds for seeking a waiver.

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What happened on the recruiting visit?

Kevin Mays and his wife, Melinda, attended a recruiting dinner with their son and other prospects on Dec. 15, 2017, at the club level inside Georgia's Sanford Stadium.

Kevin Mays’ assigned seat was just in front of a support column, and when he tried to get up from his chair, the column prevented the chair from moving backward, according to the lawsuit. The chair folded up and Mays’ finger got caught in the chair's hinge and was cut off.

Sam Pittman, who was then Georgia’s offensive line coach, picked up the severed finger from the floor before it was put on ice, according to the lawsuit. Pittman is now the head coach at Arkansas.

Kevin Mays was taken to a hospital in Athens, Georgia. He was diagnosed with partial amputation, according to the lawsuit.

The severed finger could not be reattached, and the remainder of Kevin Mays’ pinkie was surgically treated. He reported continuing severe pain. Later that month, he underwent a skin graft, and in February 2018, he underwent another surgery on the injured finger.

He and his wife are seeking $3.5 million in damages for medical expenses, pain and suffering, loss of labor, future lost income, loss of consortium and punitive damages.

Kevin Mays and his wife also are suing the company that designed and manufactured the chair, the furniture dealership that assisted the university with the purchase of the chair and five unnamed individuals.

What about Cade Mays?

Cade Mays signed with Georgia later in the same month his father was injured. He had previously committed and decommitted from Tennessee. He played in 25 of 28 games in two seasons at Georgia and started 18 times, including 11 this season.

Cade Mays is a former five-star recruit. His father played at Tennessee. Cade’s brother, Cooper, signed with Tennessee in December and enrolled this week.

As an undergraduate transfer, Cade Mays would have to sit out the 2020 season, per NCAA transfer rules, before becoming eligible in 2021, unless he receives an NCAA transfer waiver.

An undergraduate intraconference transfer who receives an NCAA waiver also would need a waiver from the SEC to receive immediate eligibility, a conference official confirmed.

The NCAA waiver process remains under frequent criticism from coaches and athletic directors for its ambiguity and inconsistency.

“I have to admit, this is a new one in terms of a parent filing a lawsuit and the circumstances around it," said Ridpath, the NCAA expert.

"It’s pretty strange.”

Blake Toppmeyer covers University of Tennessee football. Email him at and follow him on Twitter @btoppmeyer. If you enjoy Blake’s coverage, consider a digital subscription that will allow you access to all of it. Current subscribers can click here to join Blake's FREE text group offering updates and analysis on Vols football.