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Ole Miss football, Lane Kiffin await verdict from NCAA on immediate-eligibility waivers for Otis Reese and Deane Leonard

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What’s the hold up?

Joshua McCoy - Ole Miss Athletics

Defensive back Otis Reese announced his intentions to transfer from Georgia to Ole Miss in January. Now, eight months later, his eligibility status for 2020 remains unknown.

Deane Leonard, who joined the Rebel defense in June, transferred from the University of Calgary after Canada canceled its collegiate season with hopes of playing football this fall. He is now three months into practice with his new team and the radio silence regarding his ability to play this season remains deafening.

Both transfer cornerbacks are slated to play a big role in their first years at Ole Miss, but both athletes have their hands tied at the mercy of the nation’s most incapable, irrational and disappointing governing body— the National Collegiate Athletic Association.

The NCAA, founded 114 years ago, was created in response to repeated injuries and death in college football and has held its ‘student-athletes’ hostage in a broken system of amateurism and subjective regulation ever since. Its ‘not-for-profit’ moniker is a sham and the cabinet of leaders continue to make money-driven decisions that are exemplified through the transfer waiver process.

Take former Southern California quarterback J.T. Daniels, for example.

Daniels, a consensus five-star recruit, went to Los Angeles and won the starting job as a freshman. His sophomore campaign ended with an injury during the season opener, and his replacement shined under center. Daniels chose not to compete against Kedon Slovis in 2020 and entered the transfer portal in April. He transferred across the country in May. He was ruled eligible two months later, as he should have been, and will start for Kirby Smart in the Bulldogs’ season opener.

There is no question that Daniels should be allowed to play this fall. If a 20-something-year-old wants to find a new home at a different program, he (or she, as this is the case in women’s sports as well) should be granted that opportunity without penalty. Non-athlete students are able to, and student-athletes should be able to as well.

On the other hand, Reese (who transferred out of the same program well before Daniels transferred in) is in limbo and forced to practice without knowing whether he will suit up for the Rebels on Sept. 26, or at all. Why?

Daniels will grab national headlines and draw eyes to the television when Georgia takes the field. Reese, though slated to be a valuable member of the Landshark secondary won’t have the same draw. Is that why he hasn’t heard?

The inconsistencies don’t stop with high-profile quarterbacks, however, and we’ve spoken about this chaotic guessing game earlier this summer. It only got more confusing over the weekend.

Former five-star LSU linebacker Marcel Brooks transferred to TCU in June. He found out on September 4th that he will be cleared to play this fall. Reese wasn’t a five-star. Is that why he hasn’t heard?

Wide receiver Tay Martin transferred Washington State to Oklahoma State in August, after the Pac 12 postponed its season. He was cleared to play for the Cowboys over the weekend. Kiffin has been vocal in his agreement with a decision of this nature.

That being said, Reese is coming from a conference that is playing and won’t be on the receiving end of electrifying deep-ball touchdowns. Is that why he hasn’t heard?

Virginia Tech running back Raheem Blackshear transferred from Rutgers in January. He was initially denied eligibility but recently won his appeal for immediate eligibility. Reese announced his decision to transfer three days before Blackshear, but has not received an initial verdict, let alone an appeal. Reese went to play for the “trouble-making” Rebels, while Blackshear chose the subdued Hokies. Is that why he hasn’t heard?

It’s a simple answer as to why, really. The yellow-bellied NCAA only cares about itself and not about the student-athletes it swore to protect.

Reese recently projected his voice and expressed his frustration on social media.

Should the NCAA pull its head out of the sand, Reese is going to be an impact player right away for a secondary that has been hit hard by COVID-19 thus far into fall camp.

While at Georgia, the 6-food-2, 195-pounder played in all 14 games as a sophomore and made three tackles. As a freshman, he racked up 13 stops. His presence will be valuable in a D.J. Durkin system that requires a high-motor, high-intelligence, and versatility from his defensive backs.

His counterpart, Leonard, has not been waiting nearly as long but should hear back any day now. What’s taking so long? We’re not sure. Defensive lineman Tavius Robinson was granted immediate eligibility last week, despite transferring to Ole Miss from Canada for the same reasons as Leonard. It just doesn’t make sense.

To further complicate matters, the NCAA Board of Directors approved a blanket waiver, which will allow fall sports athletes to retain their eligibility for the 2021-22 season. Thus, players who are seniors this year can choose to keep that class status and play a full (second senior) season next year. Same with sophomores, juniors and freshman. By sitting out, Reese and Leonard would have that privilege taken away from them by the very same people who offered it to begin with.

While Leonard and Reese play the waiting game, the clock continues to turn with even more fervor than before. Week one is less than a month away and the NCAA plans to furlough its entire staff for at least three weeks, beginning later this month. Without any employees, no decisions can be made.

“The last three days, [the NCAA was] out on holiday, so hopefully (we’ll hear) something this week,” Kiffin said.

Surely, if and when it comes, the news will be good. If not, the question ‘why?’ would grow into a bigger issue that would expose even deeper-rooted corruption in Indianapolis. Tick tock.