ATHENS – Celebrated transfer Demetris Robertson can practice with the Georgia Bulldogs when preseason camp opens next week. Whether he will be eligible to play this season remains undetermined, however.
UGA officials confirmed Wednesday that NCAA rules permit transfers serving their “year in residence” requirement to practice with the team and receive financial aid. So the 6-foot, 185-pound wide receiver from Cal should be among the 105 participants when the Bulldogs hit Woodruff Practice Fields next Thursday.
As for this season, Georgia will seek immediate eligibility via a special waiver process approved by the NCAA only this past April. How long that process might take is unknown, however.
NCAA rules stipulate that a player transferring from one FBS institution to another must sit out a year before being eligible to play. But UGA is expected to seek immediate eligibility via NCAA Bylaw 14:5. That rule states that the year-of-residence requirement for transfers could be waived if it can be demonstrated “that the student-athlete’s transfer is due to documented mitigating circumstances outside of the student-athlete’s control and directly impacts the health, safety or well-being of the student-athlete.”
Neither UGA nor Robertson have revealed what those mitigating circumstances are in his case. Published reports citing a serious illness in Robertson’s family could not be confirmed. Robertson cited only “personal matters” for seeking a transfer.
Meanwhile, Rule 14:5 also states that the transferring student-athlete has to meet overall academic and progress-toward-degree requirements. As of Wednesday, Robertson was not registered for fall semester classes, according to the UGA registrar’s office. Classes begin on Aug. 8.
Robertson was a 5-star-rated recruit and No. 1-rated wide receiver prospect coming out of Savannah Christian High in the Class of 2016. He announced on July 14 his intent to transfer to UGA from the University of California-Berkley. He has since signed a financial aid agreement with the Bulldogs.
At Cal, Robertson was named a freshman All-American by USA Today after catching 50 passes for 767 yards and seven touchdowns. He scored two touchdowns in his only two games of last season on a 34-yard run and a 33-yard reception. But he sat out the rest of the season with what was described by the San Francisco Examiner as a “sports hernia” injury. He had postseason surgery and was granted medical redshirt status for the 2017 season, the newspaper reported.
Robertson was cleared to participate in spring practice with the Bears this past April but did not play in their spring game. He announced on June 21 that he was seeking a transfer. He chose the Bulldogs over Alabama, Texas and West Virginia three weeks later.
The NCAA has not granted many “hardship waivers” in recent years because of past abuses of the exception. However, current trends allowing graduate transfers unfettered movement and Ole Miss players being granted transfer asylum from the school’s impending NCAA sanctions is believed to have cracked the door open for more successful appeals.
Georgia coach Kirby Smart, speaking at SEC Football Media Days in Atlanta last week, seemed ambiguous about whether the Bulldogs would have Robertson at their disposal this season.
“We’re excited to have him in our program,” Smart said. “We have a big need on our team — especially in the future — at the wideout position.”
Georgia loses seniors Terry Godwin, Ahkil Crumpton and Jayson Stanley to graduation after this season. But the defending SEC champion Bulldogs could certainly make good use of Robertson’s skills this year.
UGA players are excited about having Robertson aboard.
“Anybody who’s coming to Georgia, we’re going to love them no matter who they are or where they’re from,” Godwin said. “Him coming here makes it better for us because we’ve got another weapon. It’s very exciting to have somebody else in that room.”