Cade Mays' expert attorney is 'highly confident' he'll receive transfer waiver

Blake Toppmeyer
Knoxville News Sentinel

The attorney who will represent Cade Mays in his quest for a transfer waiver said he is “highly confident” that Mays will receive clearance to play in 2020.

Mays, an offensive lineman and former five-star recruit who played in high school at Knoxville Catholic, is transferring to Tennessee from Georgia, UT announced on Thursday.

Mays recently completed his sophomore season at Georgia, where he appeared in 25 of 28 games, including 18 starts, during two seasons.

“Of all the waiver cases I’ve been involved in, I’ve never seen anything quite like this one,” Mays’ attorney, Tom Mars, wrote in an email to Knox News. “For the sake of everyone who loves college football, I hope I never see another one.”

Mars did not detail what will be the grounds for Mays’ waiver. Athletes are not required to publicly detail the crux of their waiver appeal.

“The fact that a college student is a high-profile student-athlete doesn’t entitle everyone who has a Twitter account or press credentials to know every little detail about that student’s college experience,” Mars wrote. “That said, of the thousands of college football fans who’ve speculated on social media why Cade decided to leave UGA, I haven’t seen a single comment that even comes close to the truth.”

Who is Tom Mars?

Mars, who has law offices in Arkansas and Georgia, is considered the industry leader in representing athletes in their waiver appeals.

Among his clients was former Georgia quarterback Justin Fields, who received a waiver to play this season for Ohio State. Mars also represented Michigan quarterback Shea Patterson, who received a waiver after transferring from Mississippi.

Mars hasn't won every waiver case. He represented Illinois tight end Luke Ford, who sat out this season after not getting a waiver following his transfer from Georgia.

Mars burst onto the college football scene in 2017 when he represented Houston Nutt in his defamation lawsuit against Mississippi, his former employer. Ole Miss reached a settlement with Nutt.

Mays, as an intraconference transfer, must receive a waiver from both the NCAA and SEC to gain immediate eligibility.

Mars said, based on his experience, he would expect SEC Commissioner Greg Sankey to first wait for the NCAA’s decision. If the NCAA grants a waiver, Mars said it is “very, very likely” that Sankey would follow suit.

The waiver process does not begin until the transferring athlete enrolls at his new school, and that school initiates the waiver.

What about the lawsuit against Georgia?

Mays’ parents, Kevin and Melinda Mays, are suing Georgia’s athletic association and board of regents, among other parties, for damages after Kevin Mays had his right pinkie finger severed by a folding chair during a recruiting event at Georgia’s Sanford Stadium in December 2017. His son was on his official recruiting visit before signing with the Bulldogs later that month.

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.

The lawsuit, obtained Wednesday by Knox News, was filed on Dec. 5 in the State Court of Clarke County in Georgia.

The Georgia affiliate first reported the lawsuit on Wednesday afternoon, hours after news broke about Mays’ transfer plans.

“The Mays family has never said a word to anyone about Kevin Mays’ lawsuit,” Mars wrote to Knox News. “The timing of the news stories about Mr. Mays’ lawsuit makes clear that UGA leaked this story to sports writers today after Cade delivered a letter to Kirby Smart late (Tuesday) explaining the reason he’s leaving Kirby’s program.

“In fact, one sports writer I spoke with earlier today confirmed that’s how he found out about the lawsuit. I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised that UGA is continuing to take the low road about the lawsuit, but in my opinion, directing sports writers to Mr. Mays’ lawsuit set a new record low for UGA Athletics.”

The UGA athletic association responded to Mars' comments in a statement to the Athens Banner-Herald: 

“Unlike Mr. Mars, we will not engage in a public discussion of a student eligibility matter, other than to wish the best for Cade and his family. Although the Mays lawsuit is a public document available on the internet, no one at UGA was authorized to discuss it, we’re not aware of anyone who did so, and the reporter who broke the story of the lawsuit has stated that he was not notified by anyone at UGA.”

What does Tom Mars do for the NCAA?

Outside of his practice, Mars is under contract with NCAA Enforcement as an independent enforcement advocate on standby basis without compensation. He’s part of a team of professionals who will handle enforcement cases that might be assigned to the NCAA’s Complex Case Unit. NCAA Enforcement is not involved in transfer waivers, which are decided by the Committee for Legislative Relief.

Mars’ contract prevents him from representing anyone in a matter involving alleged infractions of the NCAA rules. He is not prohibited from representing student-athletes or advising schools in matters regarding eligibility.

What does Cade Mays mean for Tennessee?

Mays initially committed to Tennessee but decommitted in November 2017, shortly before coach Butch Jones was fired. His father played at Tennessee, where he was a captain and first-team All-SEC guard in 1994. His younger brother, Cooper, signed with Tennessee in December and enrolled earlier this month. Cooper Mays is also an offensive lineman.

If granted a waiver, the 6-foot-6, 318-pound Mays would profile as a likely starter for Tennessee in 2020. He helped Georgia to a 23-5 record in two seasons. Mays played every spot on the offensive line for Georgia this season.

Marc Weiszer of the Athens Banner-Herald contributed to this story.

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.