South Carolina football: NCAA ruling on Jalen Brooks is a joke

South Carolina football player Jalen Brooks was denied eligibility for the 2020 season.

Jalen Brooks joined the South Carolina football program in August after transferring from Tarleton State University in Texas. Yesterday, he got word from the NCAA that his waiver for immediate eligibility was denied, meaning he could be forced to sit out the entire year. Will Muschamp is appealing the decision.

The rejection is a joke on many levels, and further solidifies the notion that the NCAA is constantly looking out for the “big boys” while ruling unjustly for programs that aren’t traditional powers, with no rhyme or reason.

The biggest blow for the Gamecocks is that Brooks was a projected starter in an already thin wide receiver rotation following an outstanding fall camp. He would’ve been the second-most experienced player at the position behind senior Shi Smith, having played in 24 games and catching 52 passes for 1,048 yards and 10 scores.

With Brooks out, South Carolina is forced to rely on three true freshmen, two former quarterbacks, and an untested sophomore to round out its two-deep at wideout. This coming as the team adapts to a new offensive scheme under coordinator Mike Bobo.

Let’s look at why the NCAA ruling is a joke, and why Brooks should be reinstated immediately following his appeal.

Brooks is coming to the South Carolina football program from a lower level of competition.

Brooks played his first two seasons of competition at Wingate University, where he developed into an all-conference performer. As a sophomore, he hauled in 35 receptions for a total of 751 yards, good for 21.5 yards a catch. He also found the endzone on six occasions. Wingate competes in the South Atlantic Conference at the NCAA’s Division II level.

After two seasons, Brooks made the decision to transfer to Tarleton State, another Division II program that was in the process of making the leap to Division I, agreeing to join the WAC last year. Though the agreement between the school and conference was made in December, the university was not eligible to participate at the Division I level until June of 2020. Brooks was only at Tarleton State for the spring semester, prior to the school’s transition into the WAC.

Typically, players moving from Division II competition up to the Division I level are immediately eligible. Unfortunately for Brooks, the transfer to South Carolina was his second, which does typically require the student-athlete to sit out a season. But he shouldn’t be penalized for transferring to a higher level of play, even if this was his second transfer, due in part to the next point on this list.

Brooks never played for Tarleton State prior to joining the South Carolina football team.

It may have been his second school, but Jalen Brooks never suited up for Tarleton State. He was there for just one semester. Why should three months on campus affect his eligibility? He likely had very little football participation, especially with COVID shutting down spring and summer activities.

He’s essentially coming from Wingate to South Carolina, at least in terms of on field production. Had his brief stop at Tarleton State not occurred, he’d be eligible to play right now, no questions asked. It doesn’t seem fair to take away his 2020 season due to his short spring stint with the Texans, particularly when looking at the uncertainty of the upcoming year.

South Carolina football players won’t be docked a season of play in 2020.

As Coronavirus concerns around the college football landscape began to grow this offseason, the NCAA made a blanket ruling regarding the eligibility of all student-athletes. The association said that the 2020 season won’t count against any player, starter or reserve, freshman or senior.

Football players won’t be bound by the restrictions of the four-game redshirt rule. All team members will receive an extra season of eligibility no matter what. In a season that season that is essentially a “freebie,” what’s the point of denying any waiver? Whether you sit out or play, the year counts the same towards your eligibility. It doesn’t make sense to force Brooks to sit, especially when paired with the previous two talking points.

South Carolina football should be treated the same as Georgia, Tennessee.

The NCAA’s hypocrisy and inconsistency with these waivers have been the most infuriating parts of the transfer process. On a pretty consistent basis, college football’s powers seem to be given priority, while non-traditional programs get the shaft.

Look at how quickly Justin Fields was granted eligibility for national title hopeful Ohio State last year. Even over the 2020 offseason, the Gamecocks watched as a couple of SEC East foes reaped the benefits of the name on their jersey in Georgia and Tennessee.

Just down the road in Athens, quarterback JT Daniels received immediate eligibility after transferring from Southern California. Georgia is poised to make a run at the SEC title and the college football playoff. That would’ve been a tall task had Daniels not been ruled eligible, as the Bulldogs’ only other options under center are a couple of freshmen.

Daniels is a native of the state of California, so the move wasn’t one to get closer to home. There doesn’t seem to be anything in particular that should push Daniels’ priority over Brooks, who’s moving from Texas to South Carolina in order to be closer to his home in North Carolina.

Tennessee also saw a transfer approved, one from an SEC eastern division opponent. Cade Mays transferred from Georgia to Tennessee in January after spending two seasons with the Bulldogs. Mays is from Knoxville, so the move was one that got him closer to home, but there don’t seem to be any other extenuating circumstances (family hardship, discontinued sport, etc.) that would cause the NCAA to approve his waiver yet deny Brooks’.

Brooks will hope to have his appeal granted by the NCAA, but even if it is approved, the pass catcher will likely miss the season opener. The Gamecocks will have to make due in his absence, however long that may be.