How did Tate Martell’s Phoenix-based attorney, Travis Leach, convince the NCAA to permit Martell to be eligible to play at Miami this season when NCAA rules requires non-grad transfer players sit out a year if they move to another FBS school?
Because Leach made a case that resonated with the NCAA and because the superficial facts of the case — school changes coaches, player decides to leave — did not tell the whole story here.
“This was a fact and circumstances case,” Leach said by phone Tuesday. “I don’t think this is something you will see a wholesale change to the way people look at [NCAA transfer cases]. It was a unique situation.”
Leach preferred not to reveal the basis of his argument to the NCAA, but UM sources filled in the blanks:
▪ Leach, according to a UM source, made the case that after landing quarterback Justin Fields from Georgia, Ohio State made no efforts to keep Martell. This argument carried weight with the NCAA.
After Ohio State landed Fields, the relationship between Martell and the Buckeyes obviously was impacted, and “no efforts were made by Ohio State to rectify the feelings between the two,” the source said. “Tate felt it was in his and Ohio State’s best interests to transfer.
Ohio State did not object to that or try to get him to change his mind.”
▪ It was enormously helpful that Ohio State did not object to any of the contentions made by Leach in his presentation to the NCAA even though the Buckeyes were given the opportunity to do so.
Nor did Ohio State suggest that Martell shouldn’t be eligible this season.
“I think what you had here is a situation where the request was made in a way that Ohio State did not oppose what we put in our request and they were cooperative with Miami,” Leach said. “That ultimately was helpful to us.”
UM athletic director Blake James also thanked Ohio State for their assistance in the process.
▪ Leach, according to those UM sources, made the case that once Martell entered the transfer portal, he was no longer affiliated with the Ohio State program and was essentially a free agent because of the way their divorce went down.
Here’s why: By the time he entered the portal, Ohio State had shown no interest in Martell staying.
“At that point,” according to a UM source, “he’s run off and now has to find a new home and found [UM].”
Ohio State’s change of coaches, from Urban Meyer to Ryan Day, was not believed to be a major issue in convincing the NCAA to make Martell eligible.
Incidentally, Martell was not required to speak to the NCAA during the process. Leach handled everything, but Leach wasn’t required to meet with NCAA officials. The case was handled remotely.
The decision was made by several NCAA officials, not just one.
Because of the circumstances surrounding Martell’s case, Leach does not believe this will open the floodgates to unrestricted college football free agency.
“We are incredibly happy with the result,” Leach said. “It’s the right decision for the NCAA. It shows they have the best interests of the student athlete at heart. The NCAA looked at this long and hard and asked really good questions. Here, if you had a case where you are not receiving opposition from the other institution, you should look at what’s in the best interest of the student athlete.”
And that’s what happened. Martell will have three seasons of eligibility at UM.
Here’s my Tuesday piece with lots of UM nuggets, including more changes in the program.