In the past, the NCAA very rarely gave passes on this one-year requirement. Something extraordinary had to have happened, such as when the Baylor program self-destructed in 2003. (Memory jogger: Baylor president's statement).
The NCAA has made enormous strides to get its rules out of the ivory tower and into the real world. For instance, there is a more rationale and open process for players who, say because of a coaching change, want to cancel the previously-signed National Letter of Intent.
As The Sporting News' Mike DeCourcy wrote earlier (click here for his column), the situation presented by Tyler Smith was a text-book case for when a waiver should be granted. Smith, a native of Pulaski, Tenn., transferred from Iowa to Tennessee after his freshman season to be close to his father Billy, whose lung cancer had returned. (Tyler got the waiver but his dad died before his sophomore season started).
There is concern that applying a vague, hardship exception may result in abuse of this new standard. The answer lies in the NCAA's hands, as the organization answers other waiver requests that are pending. The problem should be obviated if a "reasonable person" standard is used, i.e., the ruling makes sense to us.
Time will tell.