Normally undergraduate transfers are required to sit out a year at their new schools before they are eligible to suit up for game action. Recent transfer Alohi Gilman, however, could be available this fall for Notre Dame. Brian Kelly confirmed on Monday that the former Navy safety has applied for a NCAA waiver to be immediately eligible. Kelly also confirmed Notre Dame is helping with that application.
The Basis For Gilman’s Waiver Request
When Alohi Gilman enrolled at the Naval Academy with the intention of playing football for the Midshipmen, Department of Defense policies allowed for athletes from the service academies to pursue professional sports careers before having to serve their mandatory two year service commitment upon graduation. This policy allowed recent Navy great Keenan Reynolds to pursue a professional football career with the Baltimore Ravens immediately after graduating in 2016,
It was a short lived policy with the DoD. After being in place just just a year, they reversed course earlier this year. Graduates from the academies are no longer able to defer their service commitments until after any professional sports career.
And therein lies the gist of Gilman’s waiver request. The argument here will be that he enrolled at the Navy under the old policy that would have allowed him to pursue a NFL career if it were an option for him without having to wait two years. With the new policy in place, his chances of pursuing the NFL are drastically reduced to say the least. Being two years removed from football activity and not being in a strength and conditioning program geared toward professional sports would make it very difficult for Gilman to get back into football.
It would not be impossible though. Former Army ranger Alejandro Villanueva has developed into one of the better offensive tackles in the NFL for the Pittsburgh Steelers after serving in Afghanistan following his graduation from Army. That said Villanueva is the exception, not the norm.
What If His Waiver is Approved?
If Gilman wins his case, he will immediately be eligible to play for Notre Dame and could challenge for a starting position. With Drue Tranquill likely spending a lot of his time at ROVER, there will be playing time to be had at safety for Notre Dame this fall. There won’t be too much in terms of experience ready to run with that playing time though.
Devin Studstill spent most of his freshman season in the starting lineup but he struggled throughout. A starting spot is likely but not guaranteed for the sophomore this fall. Nick Coleman moved to safety this spring and was impressive, but when your top safety is a converted corner who was last seen getting burned by the Texas offense, there is reason to be concerned about the position.
Regardless of the outcome of his waiver request, Gilman will have three years of eligibility to play at Notre Dame. The only question will be whether that clock starts in 2017 or 2018.
Does This Waiver Have a Chance?
Honesty? Who knows? It’s the NCAA. Does anything they do actually make sense or follow precedence?
On the surface a good argument could be made that granting this waiver would be along the same lines of allowing players to transfer from schools that are placed on probation and lose bowl privileges. In fact, Gilman could make a strong argument that he has an even stronger case here since an athlete losing the chance to play in a bowl game does not impact their ability to earn a NFL paycheck.
At the same time, there will be some who will not like the idea of a kid transferring from the Navy just because he wants to play professional football.
This will be an interesting case to watch though since there’s never been a waiver request for this reason before.