“It must be stated unequivocally that these approvals are solely a reflection of the unique circumstances present and should not be interpreted as endorsement of the rationale set forth by individuals seeking these waivers,” Sankey said in a statement.
But Sankey said these are “unprecedented times” with players and schools facing challenges because of COVID-19.
“In a non-COVID environment there may have been a different outcome for some of the waiver requests determined today,” Sankey said.
Mays transferred from Georgia with his father suing the university over an incident where Kevin Mays lost part of his little finger when it was caught in a folding chair at a dinner for recruits at Sanford Stadium. Tennessee announced Sept. 17 that the NCAA had approved Mays’ appeal after his waiver request was denied.
The offensive lineman has been expected to start for the 21st-ranked Volunteers once available.
Because they transferred from one SEC school to another – Gatewood transferred from Auburn, and Mays and Reese transferred from Georgia – they must gain waivers from both the NCAA and the conference to play immediately.
Reese is a defensive back who transferred from Georgia after playing in 25 career games and starting once in 2018 and 2019. Coach Lane Kiffin has indicated he would likely be a starter if eligible at Ole Miss.
Gatewood is a former Auburn backup who is likely to play behind starter Terry Wilson. The 6-foot-4, 221-pound Gatewood left the Tigers last October after playing in four games, leaving him eligible under NCAA standards to play this season. The former four-star recruit is a dual-threat used mostly as a runner by Auburn, gaining 176 yards on the ground and passing for 54.
Sankey said SEC members clearly opposed immediate eligibility for players transferring inside the league in the past. He noted the league had an increased number of waiver requests this year along with a changing attitude toward player transfers nationally.
“It is evident that the current transfer bylaw must undergo a thorough review by Conference membership in the most timely manner possible and prior to the 2021-22 academic year,” Sankey said.
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