Arizona Lawmakers Appeal To NCAA On Behalf Of ASU Football Player Denied Transfer Waiver

September 9, 2023

By Daniel Stefanski |

Football season has reserved the attention of many of Arizona’s Republican and Democrat legislators.

Late last month, a bipartisan coalition of 35 lawmakers sent a letter to the President of the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA), urging the NCAA to “revisit its decision to deny a transfer waiver for football player Jake Smith.” The communication was led by Republican Representative Joseph Chaplik.

The release explains that “Jake Smith, an accomplished football player and former wide receiver at Notre Dame Prep in Scottsdale, has faced a series of challenges that have hindered his playing opportunities” – specifically during “his abbreviated 2020 season at UT Austin due to injuries and subsequent surgeries.” The release adds, “After receiving medical clearance to play football by UT, Smith transferred to USC in 2022 to be closer to home, only to be told his foot was not healed and ruled a medical non-transfer by the USC institution. He then transferred to ASU in January 2023 in hopes of continuing his college football career.”

Smith appealed to the NCAA in hopes of receiving a waiver to become immediately eligible during the 2023 season for the Arizona State University Sun Devils, yet was denied his request earlier in August.

Representative Chaplik issued the following statement in conjunction with the release of his letter: “Jake’s situation is a prime example of the challenges student athletes have faced, exacerbated by the pandemic. The NCAA’s decision not only affects his career but also sets a precedent that we believe undermines its commitment to the well-being of student athletes. The transfer portal does need to be restricted, but it also needs to have exceptions for unique situations such as Jake’s.”

After news of the NCAA’s decision broke, new football head coach Kenny Dillingham told reporters, “Jake’s battled and battled and been through so much in his football career and to have something that means so much to him taken away – after all the work you put in – you know, it’s not the right thing to do for the kid. Everything we should do in college athletics should be about the kids – not the adults.”

In their letter, the group of Arizona legislators wrote: “…It goes without saying that many student athletes’ careers have been derailed by the COVID-19 pandemic. It is imperative that the NCAA take this into account and carefully consider the circumstances of each athlete to ensure a consistent and fair application of the NCAA’s rules. The NCAA should determine whether a student athlete has a legitimate reason to seek a transfer waiver and whether colleges are being honest with their athletes when they make medical decisions that have a direct impact on those students’ athletic success and future. Being a student athlete brings great responsibility to the student, but more importantly, the NCAA should be empowered to help students in these unique situations.”

Daniel Stefanski is a reporter for AZ Free News. You can send him news tips using this link.

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