Jeremy Pruitt points finger at lawsuit in Cade Mays’ Georgia football transfer
ATHENS — Tennessee football coach Jeremy Pruitt hinted that at least part of the motive for former Georgia football starter Cade Mays’ transfer to Tennessee involves a lawsuit the Mays’ family filed against UGA.
“Him electing to transfer, and us applying for a waiver, to me, it’s just common sense,” Pruitt said at his Friday afternoon press conference, asked .
“If there’s a lawsuit going on with your employer, it’s probably not the best environment in the world.”
Mays recently had his initial request for immediate eligibility denied. Another request for immediate eligibility has been filed. It must be approved by both the NCAA and SEC (because it’s an intraconference transfer).
Quarterback Joey Gatewood (Auburn to Kentucky) and defensive back Otis Reese (Georgia to Ole Miss) are two other players transferring in the league who have yet to learn their status.
Mays’ case differs in that it doesn’t involve an opportunity for more playing time, so much as what Pruitt suggests could be “pressure” applied to Mays on account of the lawsuit.
“There’s a circumstance there obviously, the lawsuit between his parents and the University of Georgia, and it was something that started while he was there,” Pruitt said.
” I’m sure there was probably pressure on both sides from their coaching staff to him as a player, just something that doesn’t happen a whole lot.”
Cade Mays final Georgia interview, Dec. 28. 2019
The Mays’ case has drawn a great deal more attention because of his stature as a former Freshman All-American and the curious nature of his father’s lawsuit against Georgia.
Kevin Mays, a former Tennessee football captain, filed a $3 million lawsuit on Dec. 5, 2019, suing for lost wages, medical bills and pain and suffering on account of losing part of his right pinky finger in a folding chair incident.
The accident occurred during Mays’ Dec. 15, 2017 visit to Georgia — five days before Mays committed and signed with the Bulldogs.
Mays said in an Aug. 20, 2019 videotaped interview that his family supported his decision to sign with Georgia.
“I don’t think it was very difficult for my family, they supported me from Day One,” Mays said. “They told me if you want to go to California we’ll be at every single game. We’ll make it work no matter what.
“I made a decision that was best for me, and I’m thankful they supported it the way they did.”
Knoxville attorney Gregory Isaacs told the Knoxville News-Sentinel last week that Mays, who started 11 games as a sophomore last season, was dealing with a “toxic environment” at Georgia.
“Because of a variety of factors, it was a toxic environment that did not support Cade Mays’ well-being as a student-athlete,” Isaacs said.
Pruitt was once a transfer himself from then Division I-AA Middle Tennessee State to Alabama following his sophomore season (1994).
1994 Middle Tennessee State media guide
“I’m a transfer myself, and I think back to whenI transferred, there was a period of about 10 weeks that I didn’t know whether or not I’d be eligible,” said Pruitt, who earned a role on the Tide’s special teams units in Tuscaloosa and was captain of the scout team defense, ultimately leading to his first coaching role as a graduate assistant.
“I thought about those 10 weeks when we got this (Mays) denial. There’s a lot of uncertainty there. I hate it for him and every young man and woman out there that want to transfer.
“I”m in favor of the one-time transfer (rule). 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?”
Mays’ case has another family element in that his younger brother, Cooper, is a member of the Tennessee football team.
Cooper Mays was also recruited by Georgia, but the Bulldogs had a stacked recruiting class and did not have another scholarships available for an offensive lineman in the nation’s No. 1-ranked signing class.
It’s easy to understand why the family would want Cade Mays to play with his brother, Cooper.
Cade Mays was once the cornerstone of Butch Jones’ 2017 recruiting class. It was a class that ranked No. 1 in the SEC at the start of that season.
But as the losses mounted and pressure built on Jones, Mays broke the commitment he had made to his hometown school and shocked Vols’ fans by opting for rival Georgia.
“The coaching staff treats me like family and it’s where I want to call home for the next four years,” Mays said at his signing ceremony, receiving a hug from his father after making the announcement on national television.
Lawsuit aside, Cade Mays’ incentive to stay at Georgia might have waned when his self-proclaimed best friend, Isaiah Wilson, declared for the NFL draft and became the first-round pick of the Tennessee Titans.
Finally, some wondered if the departure of former Georgia offensive line coach Sam Pittman may have influenced Mays’ decision to leave. Pittman left UGA on Dec. 8, one day after the SEC Championship Game.
Former offensive line coach Matt Luke was hired to replace Pittman on Dec. 10, and one month later, on Jan. 9, Mays announced his intention to leave Georgia.
Georgia coach Kirby Smart has not addressed the drama playing out in Knoxville.
Tennessee fans probably wouldn’t care what Smart had to say.
The rebuilding Vols are desperate to get a player of Mays’ talent on the line and extend the six-game win streak carried over from last season. The passion is running hot on Rocky Top.
Smart, who played all four of his years at Georgia, rising from unheralded freshman recruit to All-SEC safety, has said in the past he’s not certain if he’s a fan of the NCAA transfer portal.
“I don’t know that it is right for college football,” Smart said “It may be good on an individual basis. But when you give kids an easy way out sometimes, sometimes they take the path of least resistance.
“People can say, ‘Well, coach, you are free to go wherever you want to go.’ We also have a contract and they are free to fire us anytime they want.
“For a student-athlete, to say they should be able to go anywhere, I really believe if the kid graduates now, he should be able to go anywhere he wants to go,”
Georgia looks to rely on Wake Forest graduate transfer QB Jamie Newman and Florida State graduate transfer tight end Tre’ McKitty this season.
The Bulldogs also have USC transfer QB JT Daniels, who received a waiver for immediate eligibility.
Daniels suffered a knee injury in the second quarter of the first game and missed essentially all of last season.
Mays started 11 of the 14 games he played in for Georgia last season, including a 26-14 Sugar Bowl win against Baylor to cap his career.
Georgia had three offensive lineman drafted off last season’s team: first-round offensive tackle picks Andrew Thomas and Isaiah Wilson, and fourth-round guard Solomon Kindley.
All three were underclassmen, putting the team in a rebuilding mode and magnifying Mays’ decision to leave his Georgia teammates and the program that invested a scholarship in him.
The Bulldogs play host to Tennessee on Oct. 10 in both teams’ third game of the season.
Georgia holds a 24-23-2 all-time edge in the series despite a Vols’ nine-game win streak from 1989-99. The streak carried through Smart’s playing career with the Bulldogs and featured current Tennessee AD, then-coach Phillip Fulmer prowling the sideline.
Pruitt, once Smart’s understudy on the Alabama defensive coaching staff, suggested in a roundabout way he would handle Mays’ transfer differently if he were on Georgia’s side of the ball.
“I know everybody that has transferred from our place, I have written a letter for a recommendation for them to the NCAA that requested they be approved for immediate eligibility,” Pruitt said. “I know it’s frustrating for Cade, and it’s frustrating for our team.”
Tennessee HC Jeremy Pruitt
DawgNation Cade Mays coverage