Former top tight end recruit Luke Ford won’t be playing for Illinois football this season, and the Illini student section seems less than pleased.
The student section at Memorial Stadium in Champaign, Illinois used cards to display a simple message: “Free Luke Ford,” and his number 82.
The No. 1 tight end recruit in the Class of 2018, Ford began his college career at Georgia then transferred to Illinois to be closer to his sick grandfather.
"He's leaving the Taj Mahal of facilities [at Georgia] just so his grandpa gets a chance to see him play in person, before it's too late," his father Tim Ford told ESPN in April.
Ford applied to be immediately eligible at Illinois, but was turned down because Illinois’ campus is more than 100 miles from his hometown in Cartersville, Illinois (not a single D-I campus falls inside that radius) and the NCAA’s definition of “nuclear” family does not include grandparents. Both are requirements for hardship waivers, though the NCAA has made exceptions before due to “mitigating circumstances.”
Obviously, Ford’s family, the Illinois program and the Illini fanbase would all like to see the 6-foot-6, 260-pound Ford play this year, but the NCAA’s appeal denial is final and binding according to NCAA guidelines. Ford will be eligible for the 2020 season after a redshirt year in Illinois.
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