NCAA denies Ford's appeal

NCAA denies Ford's appeal

CHAMPAIGN — One of Illinois football's biggest offseason additions won't play during the 2019 season.

The appeal for Illinois sophomore tight end Luke Ford, who transferred to the Illini in January after spending his freshman season at Georgia in 2018, to be eligible for the upcoming season was denied by the NCAA Division I Appeals Committee for Legislative Relief on Friday.

Ford's initial waiver for immediate eligibility after transferring to Illinois was first denied in late April. The latest development on Friday means the earliest the Carterville native can play at Illinois is in 2020.

"I'm just pushing it in the back of my mind at this point," Ford said in mid-April before his first request to play right away with the Illini was denied by the NCAA. "Whatever they come back and say, I don't have any control over it."

The denial of Ford's appeal was based on the same guidelines the NCAA used in denying his initial waiver earlier this spring.

According to Illinois, "no further appeal is available and the decision is final and binding."

Transfers usually have to sit out a season because of NCAA rules, but Ford was hoping to play right away after transferring to Illinois to be closer to his family, including his grandfather who is battling an illness.

Ford played in nine games at Georgia during the 2018 season and had one reception for 4 yards in the Bulldogs' early season win against Austin Peay. The 6-foot-6, 250-pound tight end was the consensus top recruit in Illinois in the 2018 class and was ranked as high as No. 42 nationally by Rivals (as the top-ranked tight end in the country).

Ford went through all of spring practices this past offseason with the Illini and he will be able to practice with the team during the 2019 season. Ford still has three seasons of eligibility left, but his absence this fall leaves another void for an offense looking for playmakers with pass-catching ability.