Cade Mays denied transfer waiver; Tennessee football appeals decision

Blake Toppmeyer
Knoxville News Sentinel

Cade Mays' bid for an NCAA transfer waiver was denied, Vols coach Jeremy Pruitt said Monday after the team's first preseason practice. Tennessee is appealing the decision.

The initial rejection leaves the Vols' offensive line in limbo. If Mays wins the appeal, he would become a projected starter for what should be a robust offensive line – with or without Mays. Mays, a junior, will redshirt if he does not receive a waiver.

“We’re in the process of appealing that," Pruitt said. "For me, it is frustrating. And it’s frustrating, to me, for Cade."

Mays transferred to Tennessee from Georgia in January.

Mays was a five-star recruit coming out of Knoxville Catholic. He committed to Tennessee while Butch Jones was UT's coach before decommitting and signing with the Bulldogs. 

The 6-foot-6, 328-pound Mays started 18 games during his two seasons at Georgia, where he took snaps at all five offensive line positions. 

"I think he was a really good player at Georgia. ... I know playing against him, I thought he was one of the better players in the league," Pruitt said.

Mays' father, Kevin, is a former first-team All-SEC offensive guard for Tennessee. Mays' younger brother, Cooper, is a freshman offensive lineman for the Vols. 

NCAA transfer rules require an undergraduate transfer to sit out a season unless that player receives a waiver. As an intraconference transfer, Mays also would require a waiver from the SEC.

"I hate it for him," Pruitt said. "I hate it for every young man and women out there that want to transfer. I’m in favor of the one-time transfer (waiver).

"Just my question is: Why should we stand in the way of a young man or woman trying to figure out where the right place for them is? Right now, that’s not the rule. I hope that eventually that will be the rule.

"I know everybody that has transferred from our place, I have written a letter of recommendation for them to the NCAA that requested that they be approved for immediate eligibility. I know it’s frustrating for Cade, and it’s frustrating for our team.”

Mays' father is suing Georgia after his right pinkie finger got caught in a folding chair and was severed during Cade's 2017 recruiting trip to Athens.

Athletes are not required to publicly detail the crux of their waiver appeal, and it's unclear what Mays' waiver bid entailed.

"The circumstances surrounding him and his family, it’s something that he had no control over," Pruitt said of Mays' waiver bid.

Last summer, Tennessee defensive lineman Aubrey Solomon received a waiver to play after transferring from Michigan. Wide receiver Deangelo Gibbs did not receive a waiver after transferring from Georgia.

Initially, Mays was represented in his waiver quest by attorney Tom Mars, who has built a reputation for helping athletes land transfer waivers.

Mars has a pro bono position with the NCAA in another, non-waiver department. To avoid any appearance of bias, Mars opted to no longer represent Mays or other athletes in their waiver bids.

Mays can play any position on the offensive line. He probably best projected to be Tennessee's right guard, if he received a waiver, but the Vols return starter Jerome Carvin at that position.

Fellow starters Wanya Morris, Trey Smith, Brandon Kennedy and Darnell Wright also return.

Mays is viewed as having high NFL draft stock. Even if Mays is unable to play this season, he could declare for the draft and depart without ever playing a game for Tennessee.

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 subscriber-only text group offering updates and analysis on Vols football.