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Former Georgia tight end Luke Ford says his NCAA waiver was denied, will have to sit out 2019 season

It seemed like Luke Ford had an easy case to earn a waiver to play right away at Illinois this season. Emphasis on Seemed like.

The former Georgia tight end transferred back home to Illinois in order to be closer to his family. Like a number of other prospects, Ford had applied for a waiver to gain eligibility for the 2019 season, so he would not have to sit out for the entire season.

While former Georgia quarterback Justin Fields was granted a waiver to play immediately at Ohio State, Ford revealed on Wednesday that his waiver has been denied.

Fields, and former Ohio State quarterback Tate Martell both saw their waivers for immediate eligibility get approved earlier in the offseason, even though they changed schools largely due to concerns over playing time. Fields and Martell both hired lawyers to argue their cases in front of the NCAA. It’s unclear if Ford did with his case.

As the NCAA dragged on its decision regarding Ford, a number of Georgia fans rallied to support the former UGA tight end by using the hashtag #Freelukeford. Even Georgia wide receiver Jeremiah Holloman joined, sending out a tweet of his own in support of Ford.

Related: Georgia fans rally to support for former UGA TE Luke Ford

Ford was the No. 3 tight end in the 2018 recruiting class and a big-time recruiting win for the Bulldogs. As a freshman, Ford appeared in nine games for Georgia and had 1 catch for 4 yards.

The NCAA has also come under fire recently for denying the waiver of Virginia Tech transfer offensive lineman Brock Hoffman as well.

Last offseason, the NCAA did grant a waiver to wide receiver Demetris Robertson of Cal to play right away at Georgia. Like Ford, Robertson’s new school was closer to his family, as the Georgia wide receiver is from Savannah.

We’re all disappointed Luke Ford’s waiver request for immediate eligibility was denied,” Illinois spokesman Kent Brown said in a statement. “There is an appeal process that we intend to help Luke explore.”

Ford and Illinois will have a chance to appeal the decision. But if it is denied, Ford — unlike Fields, Martell and Robertson — will have to sit out a for a full season.

. The NCAA has previously said that for players to transfer closer to home, the school must be within 100 miles of the player’s home and that the family member in question must be part of the nuclear family  — meaning mom, dad or sibling.

This is a real bummer of a situation for Ford and for student-athletes as a whole. The NCAA needs to have some kind of set policy regarding player waivers if guys get like Martell and Fields can get approved but someone like Ford can’t.

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